Take Ten: The French Revolution in Fiction

Last week, the French celebrated Bastille Day, which marks the beginning of the French Revolution in 1789. Their Revolution was much more tumultuous than the American one – the initial overthrow was followed by 10 years of upheaval (including too many beheadings to count) before Napoleon and the French Consulate brought things back to some order in 1799. Of course, there are many excellent nonfiction books on the Revolution, but since this is summer, lets get into the more colorful side of things with a little fiction. Vive la France!


Abundance: A Novel of Marie Antoinette – Sara Jeter Naslund

  • A fictional tale of the life of Marie Antoinette presents the story of a teenage empress’s daughter who is forced to leave her family home to marry the future king of France and who rebels against the formality and rigid protocol of court life.

Annette Vallon: A Novel of the French Revolution – James Tipton

  • A tale set against the turmoil of the French Revolution follows the life of Annette Vallon, the mistress and muse of poet William Wordsworth, who develops from a surgeon’s pampered daughter to a headstrong adventurer.

City of Darkness, City of Light – Marge Piercy

  • Claire Lacombe, an actress, Pauline Lon, a chocolate-maker, and Manon Roland, along with three other men, have major roles in the French Revolution.

A Far Better Rest – Susanne Alleyn

  • A novel that fills in the “missing years” of Sydney Carton in Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, follows the troubled, love-stricken man to France, where he takes part in the revolution.

Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution – Michelle Moran

  • While the tensions rise between the royalty and the people, Madame Tussaud is requested to tutor the King’s sister in wax sculpting and must find a way for her family to survive the coming revolution.

Mistress of the Revolution – Catherine Delors

  • Forced to marry an elderly baron instead of a man she loves, impoverished noblewoman Gabrielle de Montserrat is condemned to death at the height of the French Revolution and finds her life placed in the hands of her former lover.

The Red Necklace: A Story of the French Revolution – Sally Gardner

  • In the late eighteenth-century, Sido, the twelve-year-old daughter of a self-indulgent marquis, and Yann, a fourteen-year-old Gypsy orphan raised to perform in a magic show, face a common enemy at the start of the French Revolution.

Scaramouche: A Romance of the French Revolution – Rafael Sabatini

  • When his best friend is struck down by an uncaring aristocrat, French lawyer Andre-Louis Moreau disguises himself as the clown Scaramouche to speak out against an unjust nobility, in a novel of romance and adventure set during the French Revolution.

The Scarlet Pimpernel – Baroness Orczy

  • In 1792, during the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror, an English aristocrat known to be an ineffectual fop is actually a master of disguises who, with a small band of dedicated friends, undertakes dangerous missions to save members of the French nobility from the guillotine.

A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

  • When the starving French masses rise to overthrow a corrupt and decadent government, both the guilty and innocent become victims of their frenzied anger. Soon nothing stands in the way of the chilling figure they enlist for their cause–La Guillotine–the new invention for efficiently chopping off heads.


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