Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Annette Vallon: A Novel of the French Revolution

Just finished ready this rather hefty tome. 480 pages plus 20 odd pages of the history behind the story, author's notes, etc.

Reading it while in France made the subject matter more pertinent and gave me an understanding of the French people that I did not have before.  With the revolution, the people "went to hell and back" if they were lucky enough to survive.  It seems that many thousands of people perished first because they were suspected of being royalists, then, counterrevolutionary or just simply, aristocrats... The French generally speak liberally about politics and are better informed about the subject than most people I know back home.  Having lost their freedom of speech, their rights, and in many cases, their lives, the French are articulate about and engaged in politics.

Annette Vallon is a real character, the daughter of a doctor who fell in love with a young (20ish) William Wordsworth.  She is educated, strong-willed and adheres to Rousseau's writings - in Emile the author writes: "Never hurt anybody."

After a somewhat brief idyll with Wordsworth,  he is exiled because of the animosity between their countries.  Annette will bear him a daughter and go on to become somewhat of a heroine, working alongside the "chouans" to protect simple folk from an overzealous revolutionary party.  She was indeed a woman ahead of her time.

James Tipton has crafted the story of Annette Vallon from  few historical artefacts and has done a fine job of painting the life that the main character might have lived in between the large spaces where there is in fact little known about her.  I enjoyed the cultural references to life  in 18th century France and had no difficulty imagining what I was reading.

I was glad to learn about the French revolution through a story, as vividly portrayed by Tipton but was challenged by the length of the book.   80 pages less would have made this a more enjoyable read for me.

I give it 3.75 stars out of 5.


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