Whew ... I'm 570 pages in which means there's only 300 pages to go and I feel as if I've been reading this forever. Well, about a fortnight, but when did a book ever take me a fortnight?
Seeing that wonderful documentary recently about Hilary Mantel, being interviewed by James Runcie, gave me the urge to read some more. Much as I absolutely loved Wolf Hall (and that didn't take me a fortnight, I devoured it in three or four days, sitting up at night because I couldn't bear to put it down), I'd only read one of her other novels, Beyond Black, which was all a bit too fey and supernatural for me.
A Place of Greater Safety is her mammoth novel about the French Revolution. It took me a while to get into it, because it's been a long time since I've been in the company of Danton and Desmoulins, Girondins and Montagnards, etc etc etc and even in my student days, I used to get them all in a bit of a muddle. Now, at last, I'm beginning to grasp who's who.
(If only I'd been able to read this back in 1974 when Jacobins and Jacobites were all in a tangle in my A-level brain.)
It's brilliant and it makes history come alive. But I'm not loving it as much as Wolf Hall. There's so many different characters to keep track of ... and although I've found myself developing a sneaky fondness for charming, unreliable Desmoulins and even for ascetic Robespierre (who'd have thought it, after growing up on The Scarlet Pimpernel?), there's so many of them, and all their wives, fiancées and in-laws, that it's not quite as satisfying as falling head over heels for Thomas Cromwell.
Meanwhile, my tumbril awaits and it's back to Paris for those last 300 pages, where things are getting bloodier and bloodier ...