Blood Sisters: The French Revolution in Women's Memory

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9780044409182: Blood Sisters: The French Revolution in Women's Memory

The voices of the women who witnessed the French Revolution are finally restored to history. Yalom focuses on the most unforgettable chronicles: the governess of the royal children; the servant attending Marie-Antoinette in her last days; Robespierre's sister, Charlotte; and others bound together by a common nightmare.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

Yalom (a researcher at Stanford's Institute for Women and Gender Studies; Maternity, Morality, and the Literature of Madness, 1985, etc.--not reviewed) offers a diffuse literary and feminist perspective on the 138 memoirs of the French Revolution written by women (out of a total of 1,502). Her role: to serve as a ``medium for their resurrection.'' The memoirs (listed in an annotated bibliography) are by a diverse range of figures: Republicans and Royalists; the young child of Louis XVI; an aging nun; literary folk such as Madame Genlis and Madame de Sta‰l; illiterate peasants who dictated their adventures; fashionable Parisians and rustics from the French Southwest. But these women, cut off by their sex from the political life that explained the excesses of the Revolution, saw and recorded only the hardship, violence, and suffering--remaining victims and spectators even when they managed, through cross- dressing, to join the battles, or when they served as intermediaries for their men in prison, petitioning for their release. Some of the women, like Charlotte Robespierre, entered history by recording the lives of famous men they were associated with. Others, ‚migr‚s, helped spread French culture, acquired independence, and brought back to a restored France foreign ideas from Russia, England, and Germany. But Yalom's major theme seems to be writing, and she endows her subjects with many literary associations: Madame Roland, for example, the rare female Republican who perished in the backlash, is compared to Jane Austen for hiding her writing behind conventional domestic activities; to Virginia Woolf when she goes to prison and acquires a room of her own; and to Dostoyevsky, whose career flourished after being rescued--which, sadly, Roland wasn't. Yalom attempts too much here: to illustrate certain feminist assumptions about women in history; to define a genre (the memoir); to place these women in a literary context; and to convey the experiences they recorded. A sound though scattered exposition, then, and a good basis for future research. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

Yalom, a faculty member of Stanford University's Institute for Research on Women and Gender who has written many books in the fields of French history and women's studies ( Rethinking the Family ), here uses her expertise to provide a thoughtful feminist analysis of the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror that followed. Quoting heavily from more than 75 memoirs, some written by women loyal to the throne, others by those who supported the Revolution, Yalom posits that, because the writers had in common both gender and a primary concern for personal relationships, they viewed the bloodshed differently than their male counterparts. She cites Rosalie Lamorliere's poignant chronicle of Marie Antoinette's last days, Charlotte Robespierre's memories of her brother Maximillian, who sent hundreds to the guillotine, and Alexandrine des Echerolles's account of the 1793 Lyons uprising as examples of the horror at the wanton loss of life that all these memoirists shared. A unique contribution to historical studies. Illustrations not seen by PW. History Book Club alternate.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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