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A sweeping novel of suspense, love, courage, and sacrifice during the French Revolution—traveling from the terrorizing tribunals of the Reign of Terror, to the blood-soaked alleyways of Paris, and culminating on the battlefields of Napoleon’s epic conquests in Egypt, with cameos by such legendary figures as Robespierre and Dumas—from the New York Times bestselling author of Sisi, Allison Pataki, and her brother Owen Pataki.
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||6.40(w) x 8.80(h) x 1.40(d)|
About the Author
Allison Pataki is the New York Times bestselling author of The Traitor’s Wife, The Accidental Empress, and Sisi. The daughter of former New York State governor George E. Pataki, she graduated cum laude from Yale University with a major in English. Pataki is the co-founder of the nonprofit organization ReConnect Hungary, regularly contributes to The Huffington Post and FoxNews.com, and is a member of the Historical Novel Society. She lives in Chicago with her husband and their daughter.
Owen Pataki graduated from Cornell University in 2010 with a degree in history. He served as a first lieutenant in the United States Army, with one deployment to Afghanistan. Following his service in the military, he attended film school in London. He now lives in New York, where he is working as a screenwriter and filmmaker. This is his first novel.
Read an Excerpt
The heat had finally broken, ushering in what the Parisians were calling “le répit.” The reprieve. If spoken in another context, it meant grace, though there was little of that to be had in the city that summer. Not now—now that the new invention had been permanently installed in La Place de la Révolution. Crosses had been torn from the altars of churches, cross-shaped pendants ripped from women’s breasts and tossed into the filthy gutters that emptied red into the Seine. In many public places, the image of the cross was replaced by the nation’s new holy icon: the guillotine.
On the Left Bank, in a narrow street of sunbaked houses, every window was ajar, so that any resident could tell you with some precision about the comings and goings of each occupant in the adjacent flat or home. On this morning, the couple living on the east corner, above the tavern, was quarreling—fighting over money, or the heat, or the stale bread that was supposed to have lasted for days. The couple across from them, based on the sounds issuing from their bedchamber, had made up from last night’s quarrel. And a dog on the street, its ribs jutting out from under its tawny coat, had found a prize stew bone, which it had dragged out of the tavern and onto the street, where it now sat gnawing, hoping to coax every last bit of marrow from within.
“Why, you mangy beast, that’s where it’s got to!” Madame Grocque, the wife of the tavern keeper, lurched out of her door and swiped at the dog with her broom. Seizing on the mutt’s momentary shock, she stooped down and snatched the bone with her thick, dirty fingers. The dog, recovered from its beating, jumped at the woman, fixing his teeth on the treat she would deny him.
“You worthless creature, I’ll skin you and throw you in the stew alongside this bone! It’d do us good to get a bit o’ fresh meat.” Madame Grocque kicked at the animal, but the mutt refused to release the first morsel it had scrounged in days.
From a window on the top floor of this dwelling, a young man, not quite thirty years of age, dropped his quill and listened to the raucous activity below. Rubbing his eyes, he sighed. “Soon. Someday soon we’ll get out of this neighborhood.”
“Jean-Luc?” his wife called from the other side of the door, her voice mixing with the familiar morning sounds of clanging dishes and the crying baby. “Won’t you have any breakfast before you leave?”
“Coming, Marie.” The lawyer pushed himself away from the desk in the corner of the bedroom. Standing, he rolled up his papers and loaded them into his satchel. He crossed the small room in two strides, reaching for the vest and threadbare jacket that she had set out for him. When he had dressed in his plain gray suit, he checked his reflection in the filmy glass of the cracked mirror. Was that a gray hair he spotted? He leaned in closer, sighing. After the year he’d had, he wouldn’t be surprised if there were quite a few gray hairs streaking his dark ponytail. His hazel eyes now stared back at him from within a thin web of unfamiliar lines, a new one seeming to appear each week.
In the other room, the chamber that served as kitchen, dining room, and living room all in one, Marie stood with the baby balanced on her hip. She smiled when she spotted Jean-Luc in the door. “Will you take some coffee?”
“Hmm?” He leaned in and kissed them both, first his wife and then his son.
Marie leaned her head to the side, lifting the pot with her free hand.
“Oh, right. Coffee, yes. Please.” Jean-Luc sat at the table before a plate of black bread, the remnants of yesterday’s loaf, and a square of hard cheese. Marie served him watered-down coffee as he cleared the papers that he had left strewn across the table. She had every window open, but the air in their top-floor flat hung stale and oppressive from the months of thick heat.
“You were tossing and turning all night.” Marie shifted the baby and sat down across from her husband at the small table. “Trouble sleeping again?”
He swallowed a piece of the hard bread, nodding. Outside, the old Grocque woman still hollered at the dog, the beast yelping in response to another swipe of her broom. Marie looked from her husband to the open window and rose to close it.
“No, leave it open.” He reached for her hand and kept her at the table.
“Next time you decide to work in the middle of the night, you might try moving out here to—”
“I know. I should come out here so that I don’t wake you and Mathieu. I’m sorry.” He sipped the thin coffee as she sat back down. “Will you forgive me for imposing my accursed sleeplessness on you?”
She narrowed her eyes and reached for a piece of his cheese, which she broke off between her fingertips and began to nibble. “I suppose. But it’s getting worse, you know.”
She leaned her head to the side. “Your accursed sleeplessness.”
“I know,” he replied. They sat opposite each other in silence, he eating his breakfast, she nursing the baby. After several minutes, he propped his elbows on the table and cleared his throat. “I think I’m going to take the Widow Poitier’s case.”
Stroking the baby’s cheek, Marie lowered her eyes, and Jean-Luc waited for her reaction. After a pause, she said: “She can’t pay, can she?”
He shook his head, no.
She looked up at him, her brown eyes serious. “You’re a good man, Jean-Luc St. Clair.”
He took his coffee in his hands, concealing his grin. Her approval, these days so difficult to get, always elicited that grin from him. He looked at her now, her arms full with his baby, her eyes holding his own steadily. “So then, my beloved wife, you’ve forgiven me for removing you from your beloved south and bringing you to languish in this cramped garret?”
“Forgiven you?” Her lovely eyes widened, her lashes fluttering a few times, reminding him of the girl who had bewitched him. How glorious she was, still. “Who said anything about forgiving you?” She offered half a grin, and he couldn’t resist the urge to lean forward and kiss her.
He had moved her from the south of France just over a year ago, only a few months after they had been married. Her father had a steady, if not excessively lucrative, legal practice just outside of Marseille, not far from the village where Jean-Luc’s family had owned a small plot of land since the time of the Sun King, Louis XIV.
The St. Clair family had sustained the comfortable farmhouse on the small but fertile plot for centuries. It wasn’t until his father’s assumption of the property that the fortunes of the family—and indeed of the region, and all of France—had deteriorated so drastically. They had been forced to sell off most of the property, keeping only a half acre with one milk cow, a handful of chickens, and the house for the widower and his son, Jean-Luc. It wasn’t from a lack of industriousness that Jean-Luc’s father had lost the family land; old Claude St. Clair had been a faithful steward of his family’s assets. He was simply another victim of the droughts and crippling financial circumstances that had plagued the rest of the country under the latest Bourbon king, the heir of the Sun King’s heir, the most reviled man in France: Louis XVI. Yet, His Majesty could not be considered the most reviled monarch in France; that moniker went to his Austrian-born wife, Marie-Antoinette.
When it had come time for Jean-Luc to plan his own future, he’d taken his father’s advice and had applied himself to the study of law. What else was there for him? The land was gone; there was no longer wealth to be had in farming, unless you were a nobleman who skimmed the profits from the peasants and then paid no taxes on that bounty. His mother had died in his early boyhood; his only sibling, a sister five years older, had married at the age of sixteen and had been living an ocean away in the New World colony of Saint-Domingue. Other than the handful of letters he’d received from her over the years, Jean-Luc St. Clair, prior to beginning his legal studies in Marseille, had been occupied chiefly by attending to his elderly father.
Jean-Luc had enjoyed his time at school, which offered more excitement and opportunity than he could find in his lonely, quiet home. Having excelled in his studies at Aix-Marseille University, the ambitious young lawyer sought something greater than the small hometown magistrate’s office. He applied for a position as a low-level attorney at a reputable law practice closer to Marseille. Meeting and falling in love with Marie Germaine, his employer’s pretty daughter with thick brunette curls and quick, pert opinions, had been an unexpected but happy windfall.
Jean-Luc had been employed in his new office, his bride happily installed in their comfortable cottage on her father’s estate, when the news reached Marseille that King Louis and Queen Marie-Antoinette had been plucked from their gilded palace at Versailles and moved back to Paris, where they’d been forced to live among their people. Jean-Luc, a budding idealist whose family’s hopes had been nearly extinguished under an inept monarch, and who had followed with great interest the crafting of a nascent republic in the American colonies, had longed to ride to Paris like so many of his young fellow countrymen. He did not hide his desire to join the people and sacrifice his worldly comforts and, if necessary, his life, in the name of liberty. Would it not be shameful, he asked Marie, to be born in this era of history and yet shrink from the glorious undertaking of a free people rising up in the name of liberty, equality, and fraternity?
Mathieu arrived six months after their relocation to Paris, and Jean-Luc had been grateful of it. Marie was less lonely with the dark-haired little boy, who shared her coffee-colored eyes and spirited personality, to fill the long hours while Jean-Luc worked as a low-level administrative attorney for the new government. They had settled in this two-room garret—drafty in the winter, stifling in the summer—as it was all that his modest government salary could afford. His father-in-law, furious at Jean-Luc for taking his daughter so far north, had refused to support the move. If he could only see how she was living now, Jean-Luc thought, looking around at their cramped quarters. They, being from the south, had never known the bitterness of a northern winter until this past year. Nor had either of them ever passed a summer without the salty sea breezes and shade of the fragrant citrus trees. It had been a trying year for both of them.
But Marie, bless her, never complained; she never held it against Jean-Luc that he had removed her from her father’s comfortable home to this loud, dirty city. A place where, on more than one occasion, they’d had to choose between food and fuel. She was tough, yes. But that was also because she was, Jean-Luc suspected, as much of an idealist as he was, even if she would never have dared admit it.
“Mr. Bigwig, you are, with your own carriage this morning.” Marie had risen from the table and was looking out the small window, Mathieu fussing as she tried to burp him.
Jean-Luc took a last bite of rough bread and drained his coffee. “It’s Gavreau. He plans to send me out on one of his cases. Knows I won’t mind as long as I’ve got the carriage.”
“What’s the case?”
“Another mansion. This one belonging to a nobleman who lives . . . well, used to live, in Place Royale.” Jean-Luc collected the remaining papers strewn across the table and stuffed them into his packed portefeuille. “The Jacobins want to use the house.”
Marie nodded, arching an eyebrow. “So they’ve sent the carriage for you.” He was privileged to have the job he had, even if the salary was insufficient. More than half of Paris was starving, and he rode a carriage to work some days.
His work dealt in cataloging property as it was seized from the wealthy families, former treasure of the ancien régime, now as obsolete as the old order itself. Daily inventory of seized goods—perhaps it was not as stimulating or significant as the work he had hoped to find; perhaps he was not playing a tremendously important role in building the new France—at least not yet. But before they could build the new country, someone had to figure out the proper way of dismantling the former one. For now, that was his work, to manage the spoils until the state had decided what to do with them. As for the former proprietors whose treasures he now catalogued, Jean-Luc rarely heard mention of them, and perhaps he did not want to.
“What happened to the family?” Marie, as usual, had reached directly into his mind and plucked out his thoughts with her uncanny insight. She held his gaze with her earnest brown eyes as the baby began to cry on her hip.
“Pardon?” Jean-Luc tugged on the hem of his jacket.
“You said you’re going out to a nobleman’s house in Place Royale to collect the family’s goods. What happened to the family?”
“I’m not sure.” He shifted his weight, looking back down toward the papers. “They are already gone, from the sound of it. Prison?” Fortunately, he usually visited the grand houses after the occupants had been dragged from their chambers and thrown in the dungeons at the Conciergerie, La Force, or Les Carmes. He’d heard the rumors—reports from colleagues who had visited the prisons. He suspected that if he were to witness the conditions for himself, his current troubles sleeping would grow much worse. Best not to dwell on such negative thoughts, he reminded himself. Best to remember the noble work they were doing, bringing liberty, equality, and fraternity to a people long subjugated by inept Bourbon despots and their callous aristocrats.
Sighing, he looped his portefeuille under his arm and crossed the room toward his wife. “I’m late.”
“We could always go . . . back . . . you know.” Marie avoided her husband’s gaze now, bouncing the baby in an attempt to calm him. “If it’s getting to be too much. If it’s not what you thought it would be.”
Reading Group Guide
1. This novel begins with a scene at the guillotine, one of the bloodiest and most iconic symbols of the French Revolution, specifically its Reign of Terror. Why do you think the authors begin the story in this way? What role does the guillotine play throughout this novel? How does this opening scene compare to the epilogue, which plays out before Notre Dame Cathedral at the coronation of Emperor Napoleon?
2. The characters in Where the Light Falls frequently mention the ideals of the Enlightenment and its impact on the French Revolution. Do you believe the Revolution was born out of the Enlightenment? Why or why not?
3. This book has many examples of mentors or father figures guiding younger people, some more positive than others. Discuss some of these mentors. Whom did you find to be the most inspiring? Whom did you find to be the most malicious?
4. Compare the French Revolution with the American Revolution of just a few years earlier. Why do you believe they were so different? Were they similar in any way? How would the characters of Where the Light Falls compare the two?
5. Compare and contrast the two discussions André Valière has on the eve of the battle of Valmy. One is with General Murat, the other with General Kellermann. What message was each older man was trying to send, and which had a stronger effect on André? Why?
6. In this story, Jean-Luc St. Clair struggles to balance his obligations to his family as a father and a husband with his duties as a lawyer, citizen, and republican fighting for his beliefs. Does he strike an appropriate balance between the two, or does he fall short in his obligations to one or the other? Why?
7. Sophie de Vincennes tells André of her forced marriage at a very young age to a count. Discuss the obstacles and opportunities women of this time period faced. Find three women from this period and list some of the obstacles they faced and how they overcame them (or did not).
8. Guillaume Lazare is a fictional character based on several real-life French revolutionaries. Who do you think were the real individuals that his character is based on, and what similarities or differences do you find between the character and the real historical figures?
9. Compare Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt with more recent interventions in the Middle East and North Africa. Are there any similarities between the conquest explored in this book and contemporary conflicts? How are they different?
10. Were you surprised by the revelation of the true identity of the writer known as Citizen Persephone? Why or why not? Why do you think the writer kept his or her identity a secret?
11. The Widow Poitier plays a small but significant recurring role throughout this novel. Discuss this powerless peasant woman and the significance of her appearances in Jean-Luc’s life.
12. Consider the character of General Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, based on the historical figure of the same name, the father of the celebrated French writer Alexandre Dumas. What did you learn from his life story? Were you surprised by the role he played in André’s fate?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
There are few books that are this memorable and can be recommended to everyone!
Where the Light Falls brings you in right into the French Revolution - to the heart of the Terror and takes you until Napoleon's self-crowning. The novel is a fictional account of two men in Paris serving the Revolution - one a military Captain and the other a lawyer. In two different ways these men fight for the ideals of the revolution powered by The Rights of Men - taking a stand from the lure of corruption many others fell to. At first these two men's lives are separate but over time intertwine. The authors takes us through their experience with real historic events and people. The development, corruption and challenges France saw during this time is incredible. Learning about the events and themes in a historical sense is so important - but this novel gave me the emotional, personal aspect that can be missing in a classroom and from historical documents. This the importance of historical-fictional novels as an art. I walked away from this book not only with satisfied enjoyment of a good story but a sudden urge to go back and study more about this time in history and a desire to promote people to learn more about it so as not forget.
“Where the Light Falls” is a splendid tale set against the backdrop of the French Revolutions. The novel successfully evokes all the fear and terrors of the time. It is a tale of two men - Jean-Luc St. Clair and André Valière. Their lives become irretrievably interwoven because of their circumstances and family. A rivalry turns to hatred and escalates as the story unfolds. The tale is vividly told with a sprinkling of appearances by famous personages of the time. I could not help but become engrossed in the story and it definitely kept me interested and reading throughout. The prose was lovely and flowed seamlessly, an ease to read. Nicely written and nicely told!
I have long been a fan of Allison Pataki's novels. This latest one, Where the Light Falls, written with her brother Owen Pataki, expertly covers the drama surrounding the French Revolution, bringing the horror, intrigue, and danger of that time to life. Before reading this book, the revolution was only a foggy history lesson in my mind. However, now, through the efforts of the Patakis, I feel a much deeper connection to that time period. With expertly written dialogue and cleverly crafted plot twists, I walked the streets of France and had a front row seat to the fears, ideals, passions, and zeal - both for good and evil- of that era. As an avid historical reader, I truly appreciate a story that teaches as well as entertains. Through the main characters featured in this book were fictional, the events were all too real. I applaud the Patakis for this stunning success, for the interplay between cast, plot, and setting were flawless. It is my sincere hope that we have not heard the last from this pair! I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.
This book was INCREDIBLE!! The characters were so rich and deep. You saw every side to the chad yet as person from the emotional to the physical to spiritual to the intellectual joys and tribulations. I totally felt Andre's pain over losing his father to the revolution and his heartbreak over not knowing weather he will see Sophie again to the agony of not not knowing where his brother was. I empathized with his physical pain and his spiritual battle that the Republic initiated within him and every other person in the nation of France. I also learned so much about the French Army and it's inner workings and how they really played a part in the Revolution. What most shocked me was learning seeing the world the a soldiers perspective and how it really impacted them and their families. Then there are the characters of Jean-Luc and his family and how they factor into the story. I absolutely loved learning about the inner workings of the revolution and the lawyers factored in. That was a side of the Revolution I never read about before. The Jacobins really were a secured group of men who in similar fashion to the Bourbons ruled the nation and killed off who they were displeased with. That was so fascinating. Watching asJean-Luc catalog all the different spoils of the French aristocrats was impressive. The amount of objects collected and not utilized is insane. This book gave me a visual of every scene in vivid detail that I was not left wondering what was happening in the moment. It kept me guessing with the cliffhangers and constant change of topics and scenes. It was a marvelous read.
Where the Light Falls is set the revolutionary era in Paris, France. I thought this novel to be pretty good. It is rich in historical detail that I found to be intriguing and interesting. I was captivated by the characters, Jean-Luc, Marie, Sophie, and Andre. Such a fascinating piece of French historical fiction. 4 1/2 stars
I have read all of Allison Pataki's books and they keep getting better with each one. This book, Where the Light Falls, is about the French Revolution and follows three French citizens through this period and the ways their very different lives connect. I knew something about this very disturbing time period with the guillotine and the famous people of its time, but it was so different from our American Revolution that it was difficult to see it in any light except for its violence. I came to understand the feeling of the era and the hardships French citizens endured. I found the writing of Allison and Owen Pataki to be compelling and kept me involved in the story throughout. A great read! I look forward to the next book. This book was sent to me through a giveaway on Goodreads. Thank you!
Thank you, Pataki's for doing such a great job weaving this period of history into context of what was happening in the rest of the world at the time of this particular story. It makes it all the more relatable to know what was occurring in America during the time of the French Revolution. The main characters were developed thoughtfully and you truly felt as if you knew them quite well early on in the story. There were definite "can't put it down" moments, and "just one more page, and then I'll turn the light out". That is not an easy feat in today's fiction. Reading Where the Light Falls will give a new appreciation for the people who survived the French Revolution as well as the struggle for a nation to embrace change without casting off all it valued from its past. Thank you for showing that good can prevail over evil, and even in pain, hope prevails!
The Pataki siblings have created an interesting, colorful account of the French Revolution. I have to confess I knew little, and my interest in knowing more about the revolution, was limited. Until I read this book. I loved all 3 of Allison's previous books and Where the Light Falls does but disappoint. It's a love story, and a war story, set amidst the chaos of a changing face and ruling class of France. It follows two men through the uncertainty of civil and military unrest. One, a nobleman who is fighting against his own class; and the other, a lawyer trying to come to terms with his changing role in a new country. It pulls you into the story. My idea of a great read is if I care about what happens to the characters. And I did. I received a book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. But I liked the book so much I bought another one to send to a friend. Highly recommend!
Are you looking for your next summer read? Check out #WhereTheLightFalls by @AllisonPataki I was never a fan of the French Revolution until now. The story told through many viewpoints drew you in and kept you wanting more. You could barely keep your heart from jumping from your chest in the early battle scene. I swear I could hear the beating horse hooves as they pounded across the battle field. Kudos on the extreme details from this battle to the be-headings of the royals and supposed enemies. The guillotine scenes made you turn your eyes from the page as if you were witnessing the acts of cruelty yourself at that very moment. The writing was breath-taking-- thought provoking, to think of the masses making harsh/cruel decisions and not standing up even if they questioned the direction later. The death of their very hero was an indicator of the path of rage these simple people found themselves on with no chance for remorse or even tears. Some of the quotes could even fit our real life politics today. "...the true origin of this new power is quite a simple thing: pure, unbridled rage. Fury born out of years of desperation. The man who understands that best...well..." "This is no time to put trust in those who question our efforts, our sacred work. There is too much at stake. Those who don't support the Revolution are enemies of the people; it is plain as that." Allison has a incredible knack to pull strong women into her stories. At first, I found myself searching for this heroine. But quickly found her in Sophie. For example--It would have been so easy for her to stay home-a missing witness. "Hearing a voice behind him, he turned around and saw Sophie emerging from the crowd. Her eyes were moist with tears, and the sight of her sent a stab of pain through his chest....I know, I wish I could be anywhere but here, but I also know how much you loved him. How much you all loved him. We can't do anything for him now, but we can at least say goodbye." I so appreciated her strength and sense of compassion. I also loved that she wanted to marry him and keep it a secret just so they could be together. What a women for such times! Thank you Allison for another incredible book with characters you hated to part with. Owen, your collaboration is so celebrated. Cheers to another BEST Seller!
This book is amazing. I did not know much about the French revolution and this book brought it to life for me. The details were written beautifully and I felt like I was right there in the action. Loved the story of the four main characters and how they became interconnected. This is definitely a must read. I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I received a copy of Where the Light Falls in exchange for an honest review. This brother/ sister duo schooled me on the French Revolution. The Pataki siblings spun an amazing, albeit it bloody, web with this tale. Like any great book, Where the Light Falls carried me on a journey filled with fear, trepitdation and hope. Their writing blended together seamlessly and I was excited to learn more about this tumoltuos time in history. In the beginning, I was a bit concerned by the alternating points of view. I tend to cringe a bit each time I read a book written in this form. However, these authors were able to pull this off with no problem. I would encourage anyone who enjoys historical fiction to give this novel a try. I look forward to seeing what else these two can pull off.
What is the definition of Liberty? Equality? Fraternity? When standing up for what is just can get you killed without proof, it's a dangerous time indeed. When terror reigned, and the revolutionary spirit was on the edge of madness, one must ask, where does it stop? Where does the punishment end, and the transformation to a new, truly enlightened Republic begin? This is that story. A French Revolution novel of testing and standing for one's beliefs, even when those are the very things that could get you killed. Set entrenched in the Reign of Terror, the Law of Suspects is alive and well, with hunger, anger and fear as the rule of the day. Jean-Luc, an idealistic, cunning and compassionate lawyer does a dangerous dance with the devil as he defends those who are in need. Andre, a soldier of former nobility, literally has fought for France and his life, as the French nobility continues to be cut down by Joseph Guillotine's contraption. Their stories intertwine to show the many facets of Parisian life in the late 1700's. The Revolutionary that dwells within all of us, of defending freedoms and righting wrongs, will come to the surface while reading this. The controversy of the use of fear that has the citizens surrounding these main characters giving each other up in order to save themselves, will stir your blood and anger you, for there has to be an end to the madness . Thankfully, there is, as Pataki delivers some sweet, poetic justice, and through the grueling terror, there is a shard of hope. Truly a thought and spirit provoking historical novel. As a history buff, it kept my interest and propelled me to seek facts that I had forgotten regarding this time period. The plot, characters and spirit of the story kept me a rapt and spellbound audience. Thank you for this intelligent and captivating novel! *I received an arc from the publisher through NetGalley for an honest review
This was an amazing historical fiction book. I haven't read any books that took place during this time period and I thoroughly enjoyed learning about this time period. This book takes place during the French revolution . I liked the 4 main characters and enjoyed how their stories intertwined. The book was beautifully written and you felt like you were there as you are reading. Thank you to NetGalley and Dial Press for an ARC of the book in return for an honest review.
Allison Pataki has done it again! I loved her two books on Empress Sissi (“The Accidental Empress” and “Sissi”) and her book on Benedict Arnold’s wife (“The Traitor’s Wife”). With “Where the Light Falls” Allison, along with her brother Owen, has written a compelling saga of life during the French Revolution. The story begins with the aftermath of the people’s rebellion and the storming of the Bastille. Royalty has been abolished. Noblemen have been imprisoned. It is a bit slow at first as the back-story of the characters is laid out. But once you know who everyone is, the story takes off and never slows down. The Pataki siblings obviously did extensive research to lay out such a well written, detailed story that made you feel you were right there in the midst of the turbulent time. I could feel the disgust and anger the people had toward the nobility. The revolution brought feelings of hope and patriotism for some, but inescapable fear for others. Each drop of the infamous guillotine resulted in a frenzied public becoming more and more blood-thirsty. King Louis XVI – “off with his head”. Marie Antoinette – “off with her head”. The slightest offense to the wrong person could result in imprisonment or execution. André Valiere is a nobleman’s son who denounced his wealth and status to fight for his people. The Pataki’s took me right into the battles with Valiere. I felt the intensity of the battle at Valmy against the Austrians and Prussians, and then later alongside Napoleon in Malta against the Mamelukes. And even in times of such uncertainty love can be found; thus it was when André met Sophie, a young aristocratic widow. However, a very powerful person is determined to keep them apart, and he doesn’t care who he has to kill to do so. Also in such times can be found those who are determined to help the “underdog”. Such a man is Jean-Luc who selflessly takes on legal cases for those who cannot pay him. He knows he is fortunate to have the moral support of his wife Marie. But little does he know just how brave his adored wife is. I studied the French Revolution is school but remember little of it as it was taught in such a dry manner. I learned so much more from reading this book. Historical fiction is such a wonderful way to make learning more fun. The first few times I read historical fiction I was concerned about the accuracy of the stories, so I checked the books against historical documentation and found that the major premise behind the stories stayed true to the documentation. Such a pity that history lessons focus on the dates and not the people. I know that since this book was so engrossing I will remember what I read. And while Jean-Luc, Marie, André, and Sophie are fictional characters, I am sure they are composites of brave people who did really exist.
I did not like this at all.