I started reading 'A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel while on holiday and was really enjoying it. I absolutely loved 'Wolf Hall' which won the Booker this year so although my sister had said it wasn't as good, and it is a lot earlier, I had fairly high hopes.
The first half was great. The book traces the French Revolution mainly through the characters of Danton, Desmoulins and Robespierre, starting from their childhoods and moving on through their youth to the revolution. It is distanced from the violence of the revolution and there is little real feeling of the horror and savagery of mobs in the streets, and the feeling of social disruption which must have been there. She has a wonderful technique of commenting on the action or the character of the people in her stories, and the tone is always contemporary - she makes no attempt to talk with historical accuracy, which is a relief because all the people at the time were talking in modern idioms to them. Whenever she does this it works brilliantly, and acts as a real comment on the progress of the narrative.
However once the revolution gets going the book stalls.
It has got very dull and I find I have little interest in the characters at this point because they have all got stuck into a rut. It is strange because the political situation at that time was extremely dynamic but she hasn't managed to convey that. I feel that the characters are more interested in their love lives than in the politics which were ruling their lives at that time. Her narrow focus also loses its effect because - apart from Marat - none of the other significant characters in the Revolution get much of a look in, and don't become individuals, only names.
I am over three quarters of the way through the book, and have no real urge to complete it, which is disappointing.
I have, instead, picked up the new Michael Morpurgo book - 'An Elephant in the Garden' which I read this morning in bed and loved. He is such a gifted writer.