Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Review: "The Terror" by David Andress

From Goodreads:  For two hundred years, the Terror has haunted the imagination of the West. The descent of the French Revolution from rapturous liberation into an orgy of apparently pointless bloodletting has been the focus of countless reflections on the often malignant nature of humanity and the folly of revolution.

David Andress, a leading historian of the French Revolution, presents a radically different account of the Terror. In a remarkably vivid and page-turning work of history, he transports the reader from the pitched battles on the streets of Paris to the royal family's escape through secret passageways in the Tuileries palace, and across the landscape of the tragic last years of the Revolution. The violence, he shows, was a result of dogmatic and fundamentalist thinking: dreadful decisions were made by groups of people who believed they were still fighting for freedom but whose survival was threatened by famine, external war, and counter-revolutionaries within the fledging new state. Urgent questions emerge from Andress's trenchant reassessment: When is it right to arbitrarily detain those suspected of subversion? When does an earnest patriotism become the rationale for slaughter?

Combining startling narrative power and bold insight, The Terror is written with verve and exceptional pace-it is a superb popular debut from an enormously talented historian.

My Thoughts:  I really was not in the right frame of mind when I picked up this book so I'll be honest, I didn't enjoy it at all.  That doesn't mean this is a bad book (it's not), it just wasn't for me.  The Terror is a very in depth look at all that was occurring in Revolutionary France.  You meet all the players and political groups and see all the moves for power.  There is so much information in this book and it is written in a very scholarly manner which is why I struggled with it so much.  It is definitely dry at times but a lot of scholarly works are.  There were some interesting discussions about the changes made to the French calendar and the overall discontented atmosphere in France so I did enjoy some of this book.  I also liked the discussions about all of the revoluationaries turning on each other, I think it just reiterated the chaos and turmoil that was going on.  Overall, I think this is a good book if you are looking for a very detailed work on the this period in history.  3 stars.

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