BLOOD OF THE BASTILLE 1787-1789: From Calonne's Dismissal to the Uprising of Paris by Claude Manceron

BLOOD OF THE BASTILLE 1787-1789: From Calonne's Dismissal to the Uprising of Paris

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KIRKUS REVIEW

France's Minister of Culture concludes his melodramatic five-volume history of the Age of the French Revolution, begun over 12 years ago and including Twilight of the OM Order, The Wind from America, Their Gracious Pleasure, and Toward the Brink. Beginning this volume with the dismissal of Calonne, Louis XVI's Comptroller General of Finance, Manceron gossips his way to the storming of the Bastille in a near-self-parody of the lightweight style used in his previous volumes. Thus, the reader is left to plod through detailed material as paltry as 12 pages on the wedding of Condorcet--more appropriate to a social history--or the literary doings of so minor a figure as Louvet (author of a forgettable series of licentious novels). Indeed, Manceron takes such liberties--assuming a confidential, familiar tone about characters that are often only marginally notable--that the footnotes must serve as anchors for a narrative that always threatens to drift away in chattiness (Manceron on Calonne's report on the economy to the Assembly of Notables: ""Oopsy-daisy. . .Calonne is sure he's put one over on them all. Wanna bet?""--but perhaps the real culprit here is the translator). Still, along the way, the author offers some gems of characterization (of Babeuf, a second-rate chronicler of the time: ""a fatalistic and scrupulous integrity embedded in indignation""; of the king: he ""has always wanted to be saved without a savior""; of the ambitious Mirabeau: ""like many of history's other adventurers, he is kept walking up and down in the waiting rooms""). Sadly, though, for such an encompassing series, Manceron offers no value judgments or theories. Rather, like a cub reporter, he seems content to highlight headline-grabbing personal scandals and, if anything, demonstrates that the Revolution proceeded apace in spite of the awkward fumblings of its protagonists. With so many edifying accounts recently published on the subject, Manceron's inferior French version of Durantism is merely so much bookshelf clutter.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Simon & Schuster