Thursday, September 20, 2012

Terror and Death

The Giant of the French Revolution: Danton, A Life by David Lawday

Summary: One of the Western world’s most epic uprisings, the French Revolution ended a monarchy that had ruled for almost a thousand years. George-Jacques Danton was the driving force behind it. In the first biography of Danton in over forty years, David Lawday reveals the larger-than-life figure who joined the fray at the storming of the Bastille in 1789 and was dead five years later.
To hear Danton speak, his booming voice a roll of thunder, excited bourgeois reformers and the street alike; his impassioned speeches, often hours long, drove the sans culottes to action and kept the Revolution alive. But as the newly appointed Minister of Justice, Danton struggled to steer the increasingly divided Revolutionary government. Working tirelessly to halt the bloodshed of Robespierre’s Terror, he ultimately became another of its victims. True to form, Danton did not go easily to the guillotine; at his trial, he defended himself with such vehemence that the tribunal convicted him before he could rally the crowd in his favor.
In vivid, almost novelistic prose, Lawday leads us from Danton’s humble roots to the streets of Revolutionary Paris, where this political legend acted on the stage of the revolution that altered Western civilization.

Review: An in depth and very thorough look at a person who was an instrumental part of the French Revolution. 

I have only read about the French Revolution through the eyes of Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI, which obviously does not give one the whole story. It was nice to see the French Revolution through the eyes of the people. I must admit that I got a bit lost reading this book. It is very in depth when it comes to Danton, but is a little light on events that are beyond the sphere of his life or merely when he is not around. I think this book would be best for those that are familiar with the French Revolution. I personally plan on learning more about it. 

Danton is certainly an interesting character. He is, admittedly, not very attractive, but he must have had an impressive charisma. The author does a very good job of portraying his personality and how he was caught up in his passions. The French Revolution was a horrifying and terrifying time. Loyalties shifted and executions became common. No one was safe. Danton did not deserve to die yet he was still killed. 


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those that are familiar with the French Revolution and desire to learn more about those that helped to bring it about.

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