City of Darkness, City of Light
Robespierre and Danton. These are the names that have come down to us as the architects of the French Revolution. Yet there is another story of that glorious, bloody movement that still lies buried: the courageous women who sparked the revolution by taking to the streets. Now, in her most splendid, thought-provoking novel yet, Marge Piercy brings to vibrant life three of the women who played prominent roles in the most tumultuous turning point in European history, and tells the intimate stories of the men whose names we know so well.
Claire Lacombe escapes the grinding poverty of Pamiers by joining a traveling theatrical troupe as an actress. Defiantly independent, strikingly beautiful, she will become a symbol to many as she tests her theory: if men can make things happen, perhaps women can too. . . . Manon Philipon, a jeweler's daughter, worships Rousseau and the life of the mind. When she marries Jean Roland, a minor provincial bureaucrat, she finds she has a talent for politics--albeit as the ghostwriter of her husband's speeches, and the hostess of his salon. . . . Pauline Léon, owner of a chocolate shop in Paris, witnesses the torture and executions of common people who riot for bread. As the revolution gathers momentum, Pauline is certain of one thing: the women must apply the pressure, or their male colleagues will let them starve. And so the Revolutionary Republican Women are
born. . . .
And while the women make their voices heard in every district, the men sit in makeshift assemblies, willing the revolution into being through infighting and intrigue. The incorruptible Maximilien Robespierre, the earthy and opportunistic Georges Danton, and the intellectual Nicholas Condorcet all vie for power as Paris whips itself into a frenzy. History has recorded their political legacies, but in City of Darkness, City of Light Marge Piercy reveals the innermost thoughts and feelings of these three men, their insecurities and vulnerabilities, the way they loved and sometimes lost what was most precious to them.
The women's march on Versailles. The haggling of the Committee for Public Safety. The overarching reach of the Terror. All the events of the revolution explode with the urgency of today's headlines, as Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, Marat, Tom Paine, Camille Desmoulins, Olympe de Gouges, and many other legendary figures play their parts on the great stage of history. Marge Piercy has done nothing less than capture the entire sweep of the French Revolution, while opening to us the minds and hearts of six people who changed the world, lived their ideals--and were prepared to die for them. Filled with the philosophy, politics, and dreams of these extraordinary women and men, City of Darkenss, City of Light is Marge Piercy's masterpiece.
New York : Fawcett Columbine, 1996.
x, 479 p. ; 25 cm.