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

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

4.0 12
by Caroline Moorehead
 

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“[A] remarkable biography….Moorehead deftly wields periods detail…to tell the story of a captivating woman who kept her sense of self amid the vicissitudes of politics.”
Vogue

 

From acclaimed biographer Caroline Moorhead comes Dancing to the Precipice, a sweeping chronicle of the remarkable life

Overview

“[A] remarkable biography….Moorehead deftly wields periods detail…to tell the story of a captivating woman who kept her sense of self amid the vicissitudes of politics.”
Vogue

 

From acclaimed biographer Caroline Moorhead comes Dancing to the Precipice, a sweeping chronicle of the remarkable life of Lucie de la Tour du Pin—“an astute, thoroughly engaging biography of a formidable woman” (Boston Globe) who, over the span of some 80 years, was witness to, and often a participant in the major social upheavals of eighteenth-century French history.

Editorial Reviews

Brenda Wineapple
…absorbing…documents with stylistic elan and meticulous detail a reeling period of French history, from the ludicrous court of Louis XVI to the Revolution of 1789 and the dictatorship of Napoleon, itself followed by the speedy restoration and deposition of Bourbon kings. Drawing on de la Tour du Pin's memoirs and previously unseen family papers, the author narrates this wrenching history mostly from the perspective of its central figure, who was an "eyewitness to an era."
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Educated to wait on Marie Antoinette, the marquise Lucie de la Tour du Pin (1770-1853) instead precariously survived a devastating revolution, an emperor, two restorations and a republic. Drawing on Lucie's memoirs and those of her contemporaries, Moorehead (Gellhorn) uses Lucie's descriptions of both personal events and the ever-changing French political atmosphere to portray the nobility's awkward shifts with each new event and the impact they have on Lucie and her diplomat husband, Fréédric. A woman with both court-honed aristocratic manners and rough farm skills (earned in the Revolution's wake during her rural New York exile), Lucie benefited from passing platonic relationships with Napoleon and Wellington, Talleyrand, and countless salon personalities. Lucie's terror during the anarchy of the Revolution remains palpable in her memoirs centuries later. Moorehead obviously admires Lucie, but she gives a convincing and entertaining portrait of an intelligent, shrewd, unpretentious woman and the turbulent times she lived through and testified to in her memoirs. 16 pages of b&w photos, 19 illus. throughout.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

The exceptional Henriette Lucie Dillon, Marquise de la Tour du Pin Gouvernet (1770-1853) has long deserved a competent biographer, and Moorehead (Gellhorn: A Twentieth-Century Life) does her justice. The marquise's Journal d'une Femme de Cinquante Ans, 1778-1815 is considered one of the best first-person accounts available of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic era and is still in print. While Moorehead relies heavily on these memoirs, she also uses additional primary sources to flesh out the nearly 50 years (1815-53) not covered by Lucie's memoirs and places Lucie within the context of an émigré culture that grew out of the radicalization of the French Revolution. Born to the French aristocracy, Lucie was equally comfortable at the opulent court of Versailles and the back country of upstate New York. She and her family were forced to flee France four times during the revolutionary era. Her father and father-in-law lost their heads to the guillotine, she had several miscarriages, and most of her children did not reach adulthood, but through it all she remained resilient, compassionate, and observant. An outstanding choice for general readers.
—Jim Doyle

Kirkus Reviews
The sensational story of a woman whose enduring spirit encapsulates one of the most dynamic periods of modern European history. Drawing on a detailed memoir and boxes of letters, historian and biographer Moorehead (Human Cargo: A Journey Among Refugees, 2005, etc.) re-creates the tumultuous life of Lucie Dillon. Raised by her unhappy and spiteful grandmother, Lucie quickly developed into a resourceful, level-headed girl. These qualities would prove indispensable as she entered adulthood and faced the many dangers and challenges of 18th-century Europe. Still in her teens when she married Frederic de la Tour du Pin, Lucie was thrust into a whirlwind of salons, fashion, gossip and royal etiquette, mingling with the likes of Marie Antoinette, Talleyrand and Lafayette. The young woman earned their adoration and respect as she grew into her role as an elegant hostess and wife. As political tumult grew around her, she was forced to flee France and forge a new identity as an emigre. For the remainder of her days, her intrepid character would see her through the reigns of Robespierre and Napoleon; exiles in America, England, Belgium and Italy; the death of five of her children; and periods of extreme hardship and poverty. Throughout decades of uncertainty, the one enduring element was her husband, with whom she shared nearly 50 years of marriage, and who on his death bed extolled her "bottomless reserves of courage." Moorehead deftly navigates a dizzying cast of characters, locations and events, allowing Lucie's "precise, cool eye" and discerning wit to shine through. Sumptuous account of Revolutionary Europe.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061887529
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
06/30/2009
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
512
Sales rank:
464,749
File size:
850 KB

Meet the Author

Caroline Moorehead is the New York Times bestselling author of Human Cargo: A Journey Among Refugees, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and A Train in Winter, the first in the Resistance Trilogy. Village of Secrets, the second book in the trilogy, was short-listed for the Samuel Johnson Prize. Moorehead lives in London and Italy.

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Dancing to the Precipice: The Life of Lucie de la Tour du Pin, Eyewitness to an Era 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
kdkirby56 More than 1 year ago
The book not only provides insight into the life of Lucie de la Tour du Pin, but also to the plight of the French aristocracy in the years subsequent to the fall of Louis XVI. While certainly not sympathetic to the aristocracy as a whole, it lays out how profoundly their sheltered world was shattered and how various people reacted. With regard to Lucie, I had never heard of her before reading this book. I discovered she was really quite influential in her own way and exhibited the strength of character and leadership commonly found in women in an age when women were not highly regarded. The myth of woman as the weaker sex is once again exposed in Lucie. Despite all the tragedy that occured in her life, her story is ulitmately an uplifting one and you come away wishing you could have known her personally. We are taught "Big History." We know all the major events that profoundly impacted nations and people (e.g. Pearl Harbor). However "little history" really reveals life at its fullest in the various epochs of history. This books is a shining addition to the little history of France in what was a very turbulent time for the nation.
Idumea More than 1 year ago
Lucie de la Tour du Pin was the Zelig of her of the late 18th - early 19th century in France and Belgium, Holland, London, and Albany NY where she lived on a farm and entertained Talleyrand. Raised to be a lady in waiting to Marie Antoinette she would become known for her sewing and her ability to make butter in the back woods of New York state- of course with the family crest imprinted on top. This biography, availing its-self of Mme. de la Tour du Pin's diaries and her later letters brings the era alive as few books on the revolution have ever done. The last second kindnesses of many in Revolutionary and Directoire France saved Lucie and her beloved Frederic more than once, leaving the reader breathless as the ship sails off. Married to Frederic for nearly fifty years they endured much together including the loss of 6 children and many friends. They kept going, never gave up, and in the end, a story that has to be read to be believed. Ms. Moorehead is to commended for creating such an outstanding work. She is clearly biassed toward her subject, but then, who wouldn't be. Certainly a candidate for the Pulitzer in Biography.
opinionatedinandfromNYC More than 1 year ago
This is a take on the Ancien Regime, and the decades following its demise that is different from most of what we read. It shows the real life, rather than larger than life, consequences and personalities that went through Versailles, the Terror, and all that followed from the fall of the Bastille, including Napoleon and the Restoration years. Whether it means to or not, it sheds light on the consequences we still have with us today--including the 1% here and elsewhere.
ljbirns More than 1 year ago
An excellent book. Give a good look a life in the late 18th and early 19 th century. recommended for anyone who enjoys history.
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BookLoverCCN More than 1 year ago
This was requested, so I gave it as a gift. The recipient really enjoyed this book & gives it 5 Stars!
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