In the Shadow of the Fire

Written by Hervé Le Corre
Review by Ellen Jaquette

This elegant novel details both the mundane and horrific details of revolution and war. Nicolas, Red, and Adrian are three soldiers in the Paris Commune’s National Guard, holding Paris from the French Armed Forces in the spring of 1871, in hopes of creating a more equitable life for all citizens. Meanwhile, on these idealistic streets in Paris, the seedy underbelly of conflict finds a face in Henry Pujols, who scours the city to kidnap unsuspecting women for his profit. Investigator Roques navigates the chaos to locate Nicolas’s sweetheart, Caroline, held by Pujols in the city, while the French Armed Forces attack.

Le Corre’s writing and Kover’s translation are beautifully written and create a sensational portrait of life in Paris while illustrating the positive and negative experiences of the siege. The inclusion of both large, philosophical discussions and daily details—a song, a drink, a neighbor—work well: this Paris is a city still reeling from the Franco-Prussian war, hopeful to build something better, while simultaneously admiring small and simple pleasures as danger looms. Readers are warned that some content, especially concerning crimes against women, may be upsetting but do work to show the opportunistic and lawless side of war. This is a powerful novel, evoking the chaos and mundaneness of a military siege, and is recommended for fans of French history or any readers interested in a new perspective on armed conflict.