Liberty: The Lives and Times of Six Women in Revolutionary France - Lucy Moore
I have Hilary Mantel to thank for my fascination with the French Revolution. Before I read [b:A Place of Greater Safety|101921|A Place of Greater Safety|Hilary Mantel||1168385], I had only the sketchiest knowledge of this period in French history. I’m much better informed now, and even more so thanks to Lucy Moore’s account of the lives of six women who were intimately involved in the Revolution and its aftermath.

Some of these women I knew a little about already: in particular, the formidable Manon Roland, who was one of the first victims of the Terror, the sans culottes women’s group organizer Pauline Léon and the courtesan turned revolutionary Théroigne de Méricourt. I was familiar with the name of another, Germaine de Staël, although I knew nothing about her other than that she was a writer. The aristocratic Thérésia de Fontenay - who was responsible for saving the lives of countless people who would have otherwise been executed during the terror – I knew nothing about at all. And I thought that I knew nothing about the beautiful society leader Juliette Récamier, until I realised that I’ve seen her portrait by Jacques-Louis David in the Louvre Museum.


Moore’s account of the lives of these women is fascinating. It is written in excellent, accessible prose and includes detailed notes, a comprehensive bibliography, a glossary of terms, information about persons mentioned in the book other than the six central figures and suggestions for further reading. It’s highly recommended for readers with an interest in the French Revolution. However, readers who don’t already have some knowledge about key figures and events of the period will probably find it less interesting than I did. I’m glad to have read the book with my good friend Jemidar, who shares my interest in this fascinating period.

Mentioned frequently in this book is the song of the French Revolution, Ça Ira. Here it is, sung by Edith Piaf. For a translation, here's a link to Wikipedia.