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Dancing to the Precipice: The Life of Lucie de la Tour du Pin, Eyewitness to an Era: Reviewed

Author:Caroline Moorehead
Reading Level (Conceptual):Sophisticated readers
Reading Level (Vocabulary):Sophisticated readers
Genre:non-fiction, history
Year of publication:2009

Lucie de la Tour du Pin was born into an aristocratic family, served as lady-in-waiting to Marie Antoinette in her early adulthood, then went on to marry for love (not common in those days), birth and lose many children, and survive the treacherous political turmoils that began with the French Revolution.

After reading this book, I was not certain I understood much more than I did before about the French Revolution, but I did empathize a great deal more than I had before with the French aristocracy of that time. For example, Moorehead continually implies that Talleyrand was evil (and was he so terrible compared to the many other participants of the Terror??!!!) but never quite tells us what awful things he did.

Starting in mid-life, Lucie began a memoir, not published until long after she died, and I assume that Moorehead used this document as the basis for much of her narrative.

Which probably explains why the author flits between levels of detail; there are weeks of Lucie's life described down to the taste of the food she ate but then whole years pass without much information. I came away convinced not that history is written by the victors (a quote attributed, but not definitively assigned to Winston Churchill), but instead that history is written by those who write things down.

Not a book for the sensitive reader, but a fascinating description of an "ordinary", if upperclass, women who played a small part in history and lived to tell us about it.

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Other reviews: Dancing to the Precipice: The Life of Lucie de la Tour du Pin, Eyewitness to an Era
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