Aug. 16th, 2014

lovelycudy: (Default)
've seen many people mentioning that this book was dry and I can't agree. It might be the fact that I am used to reading historical theory books or that my definition of dry is closer to Suimption's, exquisitely detailed and masterfully researched, Hundred Years War series, but I found this book lively and easy to read.
It is true that Schofield reaches some hagiographic moments in his defence of Cromwell, but I think that is to be expected when writing about a man so often slandered with such little reason. Like others, I've came to this books after reading Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies and I have always liked Thomas Cromwell, so I am of course biased. But we all are, in the end, and I think Schofield's description of CRomwell's last months show that he was, indeed, capable of doing morally reprehensible things.

Two things I loved about this books. The first was the clear explanation on Lutheran theology which, being raised in a Catholic family and a Catholic country and having attended a Catholic university was never too clear for me. The second is the abundance of sources and reference works. Too often one finds history books and biographies that make statements without citing their sources, which is frustrating at best and bad research at worst. But Schofield's book has a great bibliography section and his statements are backed up by evidence; a gift for those of us who want to keep reading on the subject.

An interesting exercise was going back to Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies to compare and contrast how Schofield and Mantel tell the same events and Schofield's influence is pretty clear, something I really enjoyed and allowed me to understand some parts of the novels better.

All in all, I loved the book and I'll be re-reading it often
lovelycudy: (Default)
I gave it one star because Scurr is a good writer: her prose and style are good and easy to read.

And that is the only positive thing I can say about this book.

The author claims she wants to write an unbiased, non-partisan biography of Robespierre. And the title led me to believe that the core of the book was the concept of virtue and the consequences it had for Robespierre personally and for the Revolution as a whole. But what I found is a work that makes no attempt to make true of its objectives. Scurr sustains and repeats the most traditional and reactionary readings of Robespierre's life trough the abundant and uncritical use of Thermidorian propaganda as sources. Proyart, to name one, is quoted without reservation while sources favourable to Robespierre (mainly Charlotte's memoirs) are doubted. The most striking example is, I think, is the fact that Scurr reproduces the description of Robespierre's rooms filled with paintings, busts and engravings of himself; but this account appears only after 9 Thermidor and by hostile authors. And yet the author does not provide this simple qualification.

Too many things that add to the obvious bias of the author and that made this book a thoroughly unpleasant experience. I would tell anyone who is interested in knowing about Robespierre, his life, his ideals and his role in the Revolution to skip this book completely.
lovelycudy: (Default)
Not as brilliant as Wolf Hall, which I found more interesting (I prefer the use of "he" without the addition of "Cromwell"), Bring Up The Bodies is still the very image of historical fiction perfection: interesting, engaging and realistic. We never have to stop because we encounter a glaring anachronism, we never close the book in indignation because we find bad history. And that is wonderful.

The reason why I don't think BUTB is as good as WH is Anne Boleyn. Or, actually, Anne Boleyn as Cromwell's counter-part. In WH, the Cromwell/More dynamic was electrifying and the final confrontation was brilliant. I read their encounters (especially in prison) with an open mouth and full of exhilaration. But AB, at least in this book, is not on Cromwell's level at all and she provides no delicious counter-point to our main character. She doesn't know what is going on until it happens, which makes for less addictive reading. I did love Jane Seymour, who is intriguing and complex.

I suppose Gardiner will be the counter-point I am looking for in The Mirror and the Light.
lovelycudy: (Default)
I did enjoy the book, but I think the first part (1789-1791) was stronger. The POVs varied in quality, I found Pauline, Danton, Claire and Robespierre's stronger than Manon and Condorcet's. There were some characterisation choices I don't agree with: I think Danton lacked some strenght and I am not so sure about Robespierre's portrayal of ever-increasing insanity, as well as his treatment of Elèanor.

The prose was flat at some points but it was good at showing the material realities of Paris in the late 18th century, especially between the lower classes.

All in all, a good book that I enjoyed, but lacking in some area

August 2014

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