Book Reviews: A People's History Of The French Revolution, Italian Venice, & The Love Lies

Hello everyone,

it's time for some more book reviews. Here we go:

A People's History of the French Revolution by Eric Hazan
Can good intentions and high ideals justify bloody revolutions and the murder of thousands of innocent people? Eric Hazan certainly thinks so. Committed to the idea of equality at any costs, his highly partisan account of the French revolution is little more than a defence of Robespierre and the Jacobins. Hazan constantly refers to King Louis XVI as a tyrant, yet he doesn't like the same term to be applied to Robespierre, because the many decision of the Committee of Public Safety were taken collectively. He believes the elimination of the Girondins, most of whom perished on the guillotine, was necessary. The Terror, in his opinion, was an invention of the Thermidorians, and its ferocity was nothing compared to that of the White Terror that followed the Jacobin's fall (of course that's when the book ends, so if you're not familiar with this period in French history you just have to take his word for it). The atrocities committed by the revolutionaries, such as the massacre in the Vendee, are played down, while the unjustifiably cruel treatment the royal family was submitted to completely absent. The trials and deaths of the King and Queen are barely mentioned.

Instead, what you get is a long list of facts and speeches, speeches and facts. Rather than concentrating on the most famous moments of the French revolution, Hazan chronicles it all, mentioning little known occurrences and events than don't make it in most books on the same topic. But, mostly, A People's History Of The French Revolution is full of speeches of the political figures of the time, such as Robespierre and Danton, and short extracts from revolutionary newspapers such as Hebert's Pere Duchense. The speeches are both beautiful and terrifying. Beautiful because their orators declaimed high ideals and defended the rights of the poor, and terrifying because they are full of hatred towards anyone considered an enemy and propose violent measures to be taken towards those who aren't deemed revolutionary enough. I thought Hazen chose those to make me, the reader, feel like the revolutionaries were a bunch of good folks who had to do bad things for the greater good, but if so he failed. To me they were just a bunch of arrogant narcissists who believed that only their opinions and ideals were right and who were willing to commit all sorts of bloody and treacherous acts to implement them.
There really isn't much commentary here, though. Hazan is no historian and doesn't try to explain what happened. He just presents you with facts and speeches that fit his agenda. He doesn't even shares brief biographies of the main protagonists and revolutionaries, making it difficult for the reader to understand why they acted they way they did.
These speeches serve another function too. The endless lists of facts, condensed in such a short space, makes the book quite a dry read at times. The speeches, with all their zeal and fervour, instead, help it to flow more easily.
Even so, students of the French revolution may find it an interesting read. The events are related mostly in chronological order, which is helpful, and full of details neglected by most authors, so you'll learn something new. I just wish the book provided a more balanced view of the Revolution.,
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 2/5

Italian Venice: A History by R J B Bosworth
Italian Venice tells the story of this beautiful city from the fall of the republic to the present day. We discover what Venetians felt like at being annexed to the Italian kingdom, the glamour and squalor that both existed during the Belle Epoque, how the city fared during two world wars, how it struggled during Fascism, and how it is coping with the tourism boom of the more recent years.
The many tourists that are pour into the city every day is one of the two main problems modern Venice has to face. The other is depopulation. Very few Venetians still live in the city, and most own their living to the tourists, yet rather than being grateful, they are resentful. To what extent, I had no idea before reading this book. I was appalled by the proposals politicians, supported by the people, suggested to greatly reduce tourism in the city. You'd think that at a time of crisis like this, they'd be eager to attract the money tourists bring into the city, but apparently not. They'd rather be jobless. Go figure. Luckily, these laws haven't been approved yet, but it is disheartening to see how efforts to modernize the city and bring money to it are constantly thwarted.
That's because there is a "war" between people who want to bring new life to the city by "exploiting" its artistic and historic patrimony, and those who want Venetia to remain com'era e dov'era (how it was and where it was). That's a dying city that will soon become a ghost one if the latter group has its way. Don't get me wrong. I believe that it is important to conserve a city's historical heritage, but many cities manage to do this while changing with the times, so I can't see why Venetia can't do the same.
Although the book is interesting, I also found it hard to read. It is so full of facts and all the important personalities who lived in Venice that it's hard to keep up. In his effort to not miss any details, Bosworth packs too much into this book, which makes for a dry reads at times. I often had to stop because I was having trouble absorbing what I was reading. Still, if you're interested in the history of Italian Venice, or want to understand why and how it is slowly dying, you may want to pick up this book.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 3/5

The Love Lies: 10 Revelations That Will Transform Your Relationships and Enrich Your Love Life by Debrena Jackson Gandy
Making a relationship work is hard work. Despite being bombarded by experts giving us all kinds of advice on how to create successful relationships that last the test of time, more often than not they end up in painful breakups and divorces. Why? According to Debrena Gandy, it's because this advice only treats the symptoms, not the cause. The cause, according to the author, is a series of lies that have been instilled into us from the moment we're born. They include, to name a few, "women need a man to complete them", "we only have one soul mate", and "self-love is optional". She then proceeds to debunk these myths and gives readers tips on what to do instead. The book is also full of exercises that will help you put them in practice.
While I agree with most of the advice given in this book (so not on board with the whole female leadership and male headship idea that says women can influence men but must leave to them the ultimate decision), I didn't always enjoy the way it was delivered. I found the writing style very confusing. It is a mix of scientific, spiritual, new age, and plain weird jargon. One moment Debrena admits she got these lies as "spiritual downloads directly from God," then she cites some scientific study to back up her theory, then she explains a passage from the Bible, and finally she refers to the vagina as "goodness". Books are usually written with one type of reader in mind, but I'm not sure who the intended reader for this one was. I guess she was trying to please everyone, a strategy that always backfires.
Would I recommend this book? Only to those who don't have a problem with this mix of different styles. Everyone else will find it hard to relate to the author and her message.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 3/5

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Disclaimer: this book was sent by PR for consideration. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.