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Publisher's Summary

It is 1789, and three young provincials have come to Paris to make their way. Georges-Jacques Danton, an ambitious young lawyer, is energetic, pragmatic, debt-ridden - and hugely but erotically ugly. Maximilien Robespierre, also a lawyer, is slight, diligent, and terrified of violence. His dearest friend, Camille Desmoulins, is a conspirator and pamphleteer of genius. A charming gadfly, erratic and untrustworthy, bisexual and beautiful, Camille is obsessed by one woman and engaged to marry another, her daughter. In the swells of revolution, they each taste the addictive delights of power, and the price that must be paid for it.

©1992 Hilary Mantel (P)2013 W.F. Howes

What listeners say about A Place of Greater Safety

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    3 out of 5 stars

Disaster

This is the first Audible.com book I have experienced (out of several dozeb, possibly a hundred or more) that failed completely. The reason is the narrator's performance, in particular, his indifference to the basic 'grammar' of the author. Let me explain.

Hilary Mantel develops her narration in the form of vignettes, switching from character to character abruptly, and also interspersing commentary and anecdote about other historicual figures. In the printed text, these are separated by a few end-stops, sufficient white space for the reader to know when one episode ends, another begins.

For reasons best known to himself or his director, Mr. Keeble has chosen to ignore these grammatical indicators. He reads the text seamlessly without pause or break, disregarding these endstops. Evidently, empty air is so frightening it's intolerable. Thus, the listener has dialog and action from one scene melded onto the one before, without any idea of whether he is still in the same scene, or another, or hearing a larger comment. The result is that detail becomes impossible to separate or recollect. After five hours of this, I gave up, opened the text, and began reading (which I also do) a really good novel, that is quite easily approachable if you have the common sense to respect the author's intent.

Added to that is the narrator's complete inability to give any of the three main characters (Des Moulin, Robespierre, and Danton) really individual characterization, and you have a disaster.

I am going to be seeking a refund on this one. If you decide to buy it, you have ample warning.

88 people found this helpful

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  • J.
  • 06-30-14

"Historical" diatribes posing as a novel.

The French Revolution is a great backdrop for a novel, just ask Mr Dickens. Mantel should be commended for attempting to be true to history in her copious use of letters and documents of key figures in order to give them an authentic voice when it comes to dialogue. The problem is that most of this book is just dialogue and precious little explanation as to what the hell is going on. I'm a professional historian myself and yet I had difficulty wading through the didactic exchanges of these revolutionaries in order to piece out where we were in the evolution of the Revolution. Even more problematic, in Mantel's effort to rely on writings of these figures in order to put words in their mouths, she forgot that a novel needs a plot. The only satisfaction the reader gets out of this long and dreary piece is seeing everyone get it in the neck. --- Oh, don't accuse me of being a spoiler, you know what happened to these guys, right?

28 people found this helpful

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Live the Revolution -- the glory and the decline

Would you listen to A Place of Greater Safety again? Why?

Yes, and I probably will, as there's always so much going on that you can't catch it all.

What other book might you compare A Place of Greater Safety to and why?

Mantel's other books, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies.

What about Jonathan Keeble’s performance did you like?

Some very memorable voices for some of the characters. (Took a while for me to sort them out, especially early on, but over time it helped me remember which storyline we were in.)

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Lots of laughs at particularly witty cutting lines. Many might be from the subjects themselves, but I'm sure Mantel wrote more than a few.

Any additional comments?

All of Mantel's books have a high barrier to entry, because they start with a lot of characters and a kaliedoscope of events and time passage, but it builds, accretes, and suddenly you're enmeshed in and aware of historical events from the ground floor. Recommend the recordings, as it might be easy to lay the books aside during early confusion, but you can just let it wash over you with audio...

7 people found this helpful

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A Labor of Love

The last half of this book drug and was challenging to follow, until the very end. I can see how Hilary Mantel has really grown as an author, but the magic dialogue and characterization are definitely pure Hilary Mantel and make it worth the labor. I thought I knew a lot about the French Revolution, but I didn't know much about Danton and Camille. These characters were so alive they were practically there in front of me. (What loud lawyer does Mantel live with?) The ending -you know what is coming - was superb.

4 people found this helpful

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Enlightening and worthwhile.

Once again Mantel offers an interesting perspective on a tumultuous time in history. Perhaps a bit drawn out and rushed in the end but definitely worth the time. The narrator is excellent and in no way detracts from the story. I wouldn't have finished the book in print (knowing how it must end) however Keeble's performance made it enjoyable and easy to follow. Not to be missed if you have an interest in this era or enjoy Hilary Mantel's other books!

6 people found this helpful

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Less a novel

than an attempt to encompass the whole history of the Revolution in the love triangle of three men. It’s wonderful, and never boring, but is a bit exhausting.

The narrator goes in for voices. Working class characters have cockney accents, which is a bit odd but gets the point across. He gives some of the women shrill and unpleasant accents which is too bad and ruins some passages. His voice for Camille has the stutter which Mantel refers to but does not indicate directly in his speech. At first, I found that hard to listen to, but over time it became my favorite part of the performance.

1 person found this helpful

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Totally, Utterly, Brilliant

Everything about this is Just Plain As Good As It Gets.
I used to think Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies were Mantel at her best - which is amazing. Now, I'm not so sure. This is incredible as a novel. As an historical novel, it is superlative. The writing is beyond good. Making sense of the French Revolution, especially The Terror, is Not Easy. But, not only does Mantel do that, she also manages to produce an extraordinary novel on its own merits - and one that is completely relevant for today, or any day.
I read this, a few years ago, and loved it. Then I bought the audio version to listen to on a trip to France. And actually, I think it's even better. The narration is fabulous. A total pleasure to listen to, and , for my money, it actually enhanced the book. Which is rare. Spend a credit on this. You won't be sorry.

1 person found this helpful

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Oh so long

Don't get me wrong I love reading dorrstops, but this book is interminable. The last 1/4 would stand on it's own and is the only part with interest.

4 people found this helpful

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Wonderful characterization

What made the experience of listening to A Place of Greater Safety the most enjoyable?

The characterizations. I am familiar with Mantel's talents in this area from Wolf Hall, and I can see now that she had developed her skills early on. Most of us are familiar with the history of the French Revolution and the rise of the Terror. But how it was experienced and lived is hard to capture, but Mantel does that in this fictionalized, yet historically solid, account.

Who was your favorite character and why?

He's not on stage long, but Mirabeau.

What about Jonathan Keeble’s performance did you like?

I thought it was fine. He had a lot of characters to portray. He did Camille Desmoulins best of all.

2 people found this helpful

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Excellent

I loved this book. Listened to it multiple times. I prefer it to the Wolf Hall books. The characters were fascinating and surprisingly relatable (Oh Camille!). The narrator was absolutely top notch. This is one of those books that leaks out into your real life, especially, and alarmingly, when watching the news (Oh dear!).


If this book doesn’t engage you, immediately make an appointment with a cardiologist because you might not have a pulse.