The Sparks Fly Upward

( 18 )

Overview

Few of those Philippa loves in London return her affection. Not the love of her life, who has a new bride. Not even her widowed mother, Makepeace Burke. So Philippa decides on a marriage of convenience to a prudish, if kind, man.

Across the Channel in France, the Reign of Terror is causing the beheading of thousands from the French nobility. Among those in danger is Philippa's friend, the Marquis de Condorcet. Not only has Philippa the means of rescuing him from the guillotine, ...

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The Sparks Fly Upward

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Overview

Few of those Philippa loves in London return her affection. Not the love of her life, who has a new bride. Not even her widowed mother, Makepeace Burke. So Philippa decides on a marriage of convenience to a prudish, if kind, man.

Across the Channel in France, the Reign of Terror is causing the beheading of thousands from the French nobility. Among those in danger is Philippa's friend, the Marquis de Condorcet. Not only has Philippa the means of rescuing him from the guillotine, she's got the courage. And as fate would have it, Philippa will find love where she least expects it-while staring death in the face.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780425211588
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/5/2006
  • Series: Makepeace Hedley Series, #3
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 521,811
  • Product dimensions: 5.18 (w) x 7.94 (h) x 0.99 (d)

Meet the Author

At twenty, Diana Norman became the youngest reporter on London's Fleet Street. Since retiring from journalism, she has taken up writing biographies and historical novels. She is married to a film critic and together they have two daughters.

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Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION

"Drama, passion, intrigue... I loved it and didn't want it to end ever."
–Sunday Times (London)

"[Norman] captures the feel of the period with wit, verve and emotion."
–Woman's Own

A new novel of love and courage in a time of war, from the author of A Catch of Consequence and Taking Liberties.

Few of those Philippa loves in London return her affection. Not the love of her life, who has a new bride. Not even her widowed mother, Makepeace Burke. So Philippa decides on a marriage of convenience to a prudish, if kind, man.

Across the Channel in France, the Reign of Terror is causing the beheading of thousands from the French nobility. Among those in danger is Philippa's friend, the Marquis de Condorcet. Not only has Philippa the means of rescuing him from the guillotine, she's got the courage. And as fate would have it, Philippa will find love where she least expects it–while staring death in the face.

ABOUT DIANA NORMAN

Having worked on local newspapers in Devon and the East End of London, Diana Norman became, at age twenty, the youngest reporter on London's Fleet Street. Now the author of biographies and historical novels,The Sparks Fly Upward is her third novel following the loves and adventures of Makepeace Burke and her family in the heady revolutionary days of the late 1700s. Diana Norman lives in Hertfordshire, England, with her husband, film critic Barry Norman, and together they have two daughters.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • As The Sparks Fly Upward begins, the two-years-widowed Makepeace Burke appears to be scandalized by the waltzes danced at Lord Andrew Ffoulkes's ball. Yet, it soon becomes clear that Makepeace's mourning clothes and puritanical protests are a temporary cloak. In what ways does Makepeace conform to her times, and how does she rebel against them?
     
  • Makepeace's daughter, Philippa Dapifer, wonders at Makepeace's tendency to draw adventures like "a woman who'd been born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards." Why is Makepeace consistently and personally entangled in the political upheavals of her day? What qualities does Philippa share with her mother? Why does Philippa believe that she and Makepeace "have to be useful?" Does Philippa's decision to accept Stephen Heilbron's marriage proposal, though she loves the unattainable Andrew Ffoulkes, fit her beliefs about herself?
     
  • Philippa describes the publisher and anarchist John Beasley, to whom Makepeace offers shelter, as "lumpish and grubby and stubborn and not a little pleased" with himself, deciding that most "great martyrs" probably shared the same profile. Is this assessment surprising? How do we usually imagine individuals–whether historical or contemporary figures–who are prepared to die for their beliefs? As various characters in the story stand up for their beliefs, sometimes facing death, do they fit or alter Philippa's initial view of martyrdom?
     
  • Despite his impassioned work to abolish the slave trade from Britain, Philippa's fiancŽ, Stephen Heilbron, does not support women's equality as espoused by one of Philippa's personal heroes, Mary Wollstonecraft, in A Vindication of the Rights of Women. In what ways were women treated as property during Wollstonecraft's, and Philippa's, time?
     
  • On her way to Babbs Cove, Makepeace reflects that she has had only three female friends in her life–her nurse, Betty; the American, Susan Brewer; and Diana, the Dowager Countess of Stacpoole, who had married Makepeace's French colleague in the smuggling trade, Gauillame De Vaubon. Why do you think Makepeace had so few female friends, particularly among women of her own class in England? How do her relationships with men, as charges, friends, and lovers, compare to those with women? How does her relationship with Jacques De Vaubon, the boy she is protecting, compare to her relationship with her younger daughters, Jenny and Sally?
     
  • Makepeace, as an American, had seen the tragedies of slavery firsthand, and had heard stories of the Middle Passage from her nurse, Betty. But in Bristol, Makepeace witnesses a mother and son attempt to escape slavery, and the scene haunts her. How and why does this experience affect and change her?
     
  • Wandering through Grub Street, Philippa considers how it could be that "people didn't equate sin with desperation," that they "refused to see that extreme poverty was also enslavement." How does poverty influence the choices made by Vladimir the Scratcher and his wife? Of the Marquis de Condorcet's family, Sophie and Eliza, in hiding? Of the French aristocrats in England, including the Chevalier St. Joly, who is stripped of the Order of St. Louis by his fellow exiles?
     
  • George Hackbutt, the attorney defending John Beasley from charges of treason, champions his client, announcing that his own patriotism is "where it always wasÉon the same side as English justice." In what ways are Makepeace, Philippa, and the other characters in The Sparks Fly Upward pushed to "choose" between ideals of nation and ideals of humanity? How are they able to reconcile these sets of ideals? When do they fail to do so?
     
  • As Philippa contemplates the forged passport she has procured for the Marquis de Condorcet, she remembers that "liberty is indivisible or it is not liberty" and decides to hand them to Nicolas herself. Why does Philippa resolve to personally smuggle the papers to France? What does she feel is at stake, for herself and for her friend? Does she expect to return to England? And what does she feel she will gain from the journey?
     
  • Why does Makepeace take on the management of the play during her brother Aaron's illness? What draws her to Michael Murrough? What repels her? How does Makepeace stereotype "Sir Mick"? When, after they first make love, Mick says that Makepeace is "that sort of woman," what does he mean? Given the history of her marriages–to Philip Dapifer, a tar-and-feathered Britishman who rebuked American rebellion, and to Andra Burke, a hard-nosed entrepreneur who rebuked British aristocracy–why does she find her latest choice of companion so surprising?
     
  • When Philippa arrives in France, she notes that everyone, from a young couple in love to a street sweeper, seems to have "grown used to it"–the guillotine. Why does this realization sit so heavily with her? What does she mean when she says that the Place de la Greve, that the city of Paris, "would never be the same" again? Why does she say that the revolution has been made "stupid"?
     
  • Nicolas Condorcet says that his book, The Progress of the Human Mind, "will show that nature has set no bounds to the perfecting of human facultiesÉIndependently of any power that would like to stop it, as the Terror is trying to do, so long as our globe exists, the tempo will differ but we shall never go back." Why does he refuse to leave France until he has finished the book? Why does Philippa say she loves him for it, and how does her love for Condorcet compare to the love she has expressed for other men–Andrew Ffoulkes, Stephen Heilbron?
     
  • Why do Reverend Deedes and Stephen Heilbron try to shut down the performance of Oroonoko, which has been produced in support of their abolitionist cause? How do different characters in the book rank their causes? Is it possible to choose one cause over another?
     
  • Discuss the play, Oroonoko. How does the eventual description of the play as it is unfolding on stage correspond to and differ from the way you imagined it from depiction of the rehearsals? What does Makepeace expect from the play's debut? How does the performance alter Makepeace's view of Sir Mick and of the company's actors? Why does it seem that seeing Oroonoko offers Makepeace and others in the audience a more realistic and moving view of slavery and humanity than they have witnessed before?
     
  • Makepeace and Philippa believe that Boy Blanchard's maneuvering is spurred by jealousy–jealousy of the accomplishment, wealth, and status of his friends, and especially of Andrew Ffoulkes. Do you agree? Is Blanchard lying when he hatefully blurts that Philippa is "like to cause the death of my best friend"? Why is Blanchard's double-dealing and betrayal such a blow to Andrew? How does Andrew reassess his friendship with Blanchard, and in what ways does this circumspection affect his relationship with Philippa?
     
  • When Stephen Heilbron asks Makepeace for Jenny's hand in marriage, Makepeace is upset by how reasonably he behaved, and retorts "Don't you see that you shouldn't be asking me this? We're not trading slaves, Stephen...She can give or withhold her consent as she likes. For God's sake, man, she is a free human being." But Heilbron deflects Makepeace by accepting her permission for the marriage. Why does Makepeace react so strongly to the interview? What has changed her perspective about the conventions of gender and marriage?
     
  • After Andrew and Philippa are arrested in the Terror, their fates are sealed: As "English spies and monarchists," they are assumed to be enemies to the ideals of the Revolution, regardless of their actual beliefs. But are they? Those who are condemned to die alongside them at their trial are "guilty" of a variety of transgressions–carrying an aristocratic title, pursuing a religious calling, originating from a reactionary village, sharing a name with someone who had been accused. Why did Robespierre and other leaders of the Terror conduct such a merciless and seemingly random campaign against their own citizens? Did they succeed by using terror?
     
  • In prison, Philippa can reconcile herself to her threatening execution, but she cannot bear the thought of Andrew's death–or that she will be the cause of it–and by confessing her agony to Andrew, she learns that he loves her. What obstacles prevented Andrew from realizing his love for Philippa sooner? Why does their literal imprisonment unbridle their love for each other? After they escape the guillotine, why do they choose to condemn themselves to another separation?
     
  • Makepeace Burke's life was completely transfigured by the American Revolution, just as Philippa Dapifer's life is remade by the French Revolution. Yet both women struggle to instill a sense of humanity into the larger, bloody battles over ideas and property. How do moments of crisis punctuate our choices in life–about love, about family, and about values? When forced to choose between loved ones and beloved ideas, what does each women do?
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 18 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 19 of 18 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    a reviewer

    The Reign of Terror has engulfed France with the festive activity being the beheading of the aristocracy by Madame Guillotine in England, though horrified by what is going on across the Channel, the Ton continues partying with no fear of their inferiors rising up. In that London atmosphere where Lord Andrew Ffoulkes hosts waltzes, Philipa feels alone with no one loving her. Her dad died two years ago and her mother Makepeace Hedley mourns her late spouse yet firmly believes she and her daughter must do useful things to help people at the cost of showing no affection towards Philippa. When the man Philipa loves marries someone else, the heartbroken young lady decides to settle on a marriage of convenience to a kind person that she knows she will never love. However, everything changes when Philipa learns her friend, the Marquis de Condorcet, has been arrested in Paris and his sisters are in hiding. Determined to heed her mother¿s advice to get involved, Philippa obtains a forged passport for the Marquis and arranges to get him to England. However, first she must get him out of the Bastille, which means she must journey to France where a date with Madame Guillotine awaits her if she is caught. --- More a historical novel than a late nineteenth century romance though a romantic subplot enhances the thriller, THE SPARKS FLY UPWARD is a vivid acute look at A Tale of Two Cities during the French revolution through the eyes of a lonely young woman caught in both worlds. The story line is filled with non-stop action yet it is the cast especially the intrepid forlorn heroine who captures the reader¿s attention as she risks her life for a friend while observing how immune the locals have become towards the public deaths. Fans will appreciate Philipa¿s saga echoing the Scarlet Pimpernel. --- Harriet Klausner

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 23, 2014

    Flameheart

    Hello?

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2014

    Lilywolf to Ashclan - The Twoleg Invasion (Continued on Computer

    Lilywolf to Ashclan - The Twoleg Invasion (Continued on Computer) <br />

    <br />

    After their run in with the feral cats, the twolegs have wised up to how easily their plans could go astray. If this RV park was to be a success, they couldn't risk having a population of wild cats running around at the risk of spreading disease to people. So they put a cleaver plan into action. Already a quarter of Ashclan's territory has been cut down and cleared away. Turf grass and paved roads have been laid and the construction of a small registration house has begun. Within this area, the twolegs have put countless traps baited with kittypet food and milk. There are also some nets that have been concealed under leaves that will entrap any creature who steps on them. In addition, the twolegs have brought in dogs, who race around exploring the area and marking it as their own. Each worker now also carries one of the loop ended sticks that they are authorized to use whenever the moment presents itself. They continue cutting at a ferocious pace and if something is not done soon, there simply won't be a home for Ashclan to come back to. The skinny twoleg oversees the work of his companions, holding a flat strip of what appears to be a piece of birch bark. If cats could read maps, they would realize that Ashclan's forest is only the beginning. While the mountains and prairie will for the most part be left alone minus a few hiking trails, the river is being prepared to become an ideal place for swimming, canoeing, and fishing. Also the pine forest will be the location of several log cabins that will be available for rent. But the greatest threat will effect every clan. Pieces of land are being set aside for human hunting and while no twoleg plans on hunting cat, the traps laid down for foxes and raccoons could easily catch a cat as well. And twolegs stalking through the trees or grass in search of deer or pronghorn will leave their stench everywhere, scarring off prey for miles. This isn't even to mention the dogs that are bound to come along hunting for ducks and other waterfowl. By the next leaffall, the twolegs plan to have everything completed and open up their new park to hunters and campers alike. Should this happen, the cats will suffer untold miseries. With so little time to act, a plan must be brought to light soon. It will be difficult to convince every clan to work together but that is what it will take. And while only Ashclan is under attack at the moment, it will not stay that way for long. - Lilywolf ♥

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2014

    IceDancer

    She padded in, sighing.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2014

    Eagleclaw and co.

    She noses her kits there.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2014

    Lilywolf to Ashclan! READ! (Includes Twoleg Invasion!)

    As soon as dawn begins to arrive, the forest's regular chorus of birdsong is interrupted by a strange whirring sound. Biziarre scents fill the air, confusing the local creatures. Though still far off, birds and rodents slowly begin to travel away from the sound, letting out worried calls. A buck deer leads his does quickly away in the direction of safety. He has had much more experience with the horror coming then most other forest creatures. But in Ashclan's camp, the noise is foreign and cats emerge from their dens groggily, with looks of confusion spread across their faces. Slowly but surely the whirring grows closer and after awhile, loud thuds can be heard echoing throughout the woods. Suddenly the whirring is deafeningly close and a huge oak tree topples into the camp, crushing cats beneath its giant branches. Yowls of terror ring throughout the camp and soon the cause of this destruction reveals itself. A twoleg with an impressive amount of fur on his flat muzzle appears carrying what appears to be a log with many teeth on it. He sets to work on an ash tree and the teeth quickly send another tree crashing down into camp. The twoleg suddenly spots the movement of the cats swarming out from beneath the trees and calls to another twoleg. This one is another male, thinner than the first. He takes one look at the mess of cats and shakes his head. If this was to become an RV park it wouldn't be any good to have a bunch of rabid feral cats running around the place. Yelling to yet another twoleg, this one female, the thin male soon has a long stick. He had been worried they might find something like this and had taken no chances. Handing a long stick to the furry male as well, the skinny twoleg lets out a shout. At his command, the furry male and female join him in rushing over to the cats. Many have managed to escape by now but the twolegs fan out to catch as many as possible. Looping threads from the sticks around the cats' necks, they drag them into a monster a short ways off full of spider web dens. Locking them, they return to capture even more cats. By the time the last cat has vanished, they have managed to capture Sedgewhisker, Wolfclaw, Weatherspirit, Gopherpelt, Stormpaw, and Flamepaw. There is little Ashclan can do right now to save them as they have been surprised by the attack though some cats do make an attempt to fight. Eventually they must retreat with the rest of their clan however. What to do now is an impossible question to answer. The twolegs continue their cutting all across Ashclan territory, determined to make the RV park a reality. Little do they know they have completely evicted a clan. This will put Foxstar's very leadership to the test. How can Ashclan survive? Discissions must be made correctly or else imprisonment awaits them all. ~ Lilywolf &hearts P.S. (Hey Ashclan! So here's the twoleg invasion that everyone wanted! Remember you can't simply move camps because the twolegs are literally all over the entire territory. It's up to Foxstar what you do next! Be sure to fully rp this out and feel free to rp an individual twolegs if you want something specific to happen! I'm just getting the ball rolling! Also I updated the pact clan map (1st result), weekly report, and weather report at "pocket rough guide"! Check it out! Be sure to vote for leaffall at the weather report! Also make sure your clan info is current! Gathering on Sunday! Thanks and have fun! :D)

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2014

    Firekit is going to bed

    He/she told me to tell you

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 2, 2014

    Heartstone

    Totally lost -_- and gtg. Firekit will be there soon though Cloud.))

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2014

    Gopherpelt to weather

    Im at res 2 i was locked out!

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2014

    Weatherspirit to Gopherpelt

    Meet at ggd res one. I miss you.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 21, 2014

    Leopardheart

    Having run off in the invasion, she peeks at wa used to be a nice cp. A tear runs down her face but she runs away seeing a twoleg come up.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2014

    Stormpaw

    As she got out, one of her back legs got sli<_>ced open on a sharp piece of metal & started bl<_>eeding heavily.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2014

    Sedgewhisker

    Stumbled over and unlocked stormpaws door. "Lets go!"she stumbled to northclan

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2014

    Foxstar

    He explored his territory, scouting out where the twolegs had set up camp, and how many monsters there were. He saw a shiny object, and padded over to it catiously. He flicked a leaf at it, and watched in horror as the weird object ripped and bit it. He ran back to northclan territory to report to Poppystar and his clan

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing 1 – 19 of 18 Customer Reviews

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