The Franco-Prussian War has left France, and Paris, exhausted, demoralised; another revolution is in the air. When events come to a head Zéphyrine, Anatole, Jules and Marie are faced with difficult decisions and dilemmas; decisions that will profoundly affect their lives and relationships.
This is Lydia Syson’s third novel. All are historical, none are placed in an obvious or popular period. Here it is a few weeks immediately after the Franco-Prussian War, not a time that many young people (or indeed adults) will know much about though there is a sad and uncanny resemblance to events that are often in the news today.
But this is not a dry history lesson, it is a dramatic story filled with tragedy and heroism. Syson’s protagonists are very real, not least in their fallibilities. Jules and Antoine, Zéphyrine and Marie are young people we recognise and understand – even when their actions may be less than heroic, for history is never black or white. The Parisian setting is vivid and immediate. The reader is there on the barricades cheering for the Commune. While the Tudors and Victorians may hold a continuing fascination, it is novels like this that open the eyes and imagination to a wider history. Highly recommended.