Author: Francine du Plessix Gray
Pub Date: 2008
My Rating: 4/5
From the publisher:
Madame de Staël—force of nature, exuberant idealist, and ultimate
enthusiast—waged a lifelong struggle against all that was tyrannical, cynical,
or passionless in her time, and left a legacy of enlightened liberalism that
radiated throughout Europe during the nineteenth century
Truth be told I picked this book up based on it's cover. Yes, I do judge books by their covers...sometimes. It is a biography, and I have never had any luck with these. This one however, was well written and to the point.
The author doesn't relate the entire early childhood. Just the parts necessary to the story, and her development as one of the greatest conversationalists of France. Madame de Stael had the most prominent salon in France. She entertained many prominent and important persons involved with the future of France, such as Tallyrand. de Stael was friends with those persons one needed to be friends with in the days of the revolution and the Terror. She also counted many royals and aristocrats among her friends. I guess you can say she straddled the political fence. de Stael was very involved in the politics of France, throughout her entire life actually, which includes the French Revolution to Napoleon's empire.
de Stael's musings regarding the reasons behind the Terror, why and how it became so out of control, are very insightful. In my opinion, her arguments are logical and on point. Later, she goes toe to toe with Napoleon in her writings, and it's quite comical to read what he has to say about her.
I guess I was really taken with this book, because I had never heard of Madame de Stael, and apparently her writings were very influential during her tumultuous times. Is it because history is written by men, thus this great woman was left out? I haven't extensively studied the French Revolution or French history for that matter, however from what I read in this book, I can not believe I have never heard of de Stael before. Regardless of whether you agree with her tactics or views, it seems to me that de Stael truly loved her adopted France, and just wanted the best for her country and its people.
It should be noted, that her personal life was a quite a mess. The time and effort she put into French politics, could have been better spent on her family. However, due to her upbringing and other factors, this probably never occurred to her.
Overall, this book was a quick and easy read; it didn't read like a biography to me. I found the book and it's subject matter very fascinating. I would highly recommend this book. Madame de Stael was a fascinating women before her time, and she deserves her place in history.
I think I see some historical research in my future, with respect to women in history and the French Revolution.
Accept my apologies for not finding other reviews. It was quite difficult and I couldn't find any that were not strict reviews, if you get my drift.