Mistress of the Revolution


Though Gabrielle de Montserrat was born into the minor aristocracy of France’s Auvergne region and convent-educated, she is less concerned with class distinctions than her cruel mother and possessive brother. Her budding love for Pierre-André, a young medical student, rouses her family’s wrath, resulting in a hasty marriage to a wealthy baron. Matrimony teaches Gabrielle harsh lessons in endurance but provides her with a daughter, Aimée. In the aftermath of her husband’s death she hastens to Paris. Her impoverished state is alleviated by her cousin and social patron, a duchess with access to the court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

The perceptive Gabrielle enters society while still retaining the outsider status that ensures acute observations and a critical perspective. Her new life presents many difficult choices, including whether or not to live under the generous protection of the Count de Villers, an aristocrat with republican sympathies who eventually allies himself with the revolutionaries. When love brings danger, she and her little girl are swept up in the events of the day, and with their lives at stake she is forced to turn to her first suitor, Pierre-André—now a judge carrying out the harsh edicts of the revolutionary tribunals. Cast down from the heights of society, an intimate of the architects of change, eventually she, like her friends and foes, is arrested and imprisoned.

From a distance of many years, Gabrielle weaves her tale and exposes her secrets—eminently pragmatic, admirably unsentimental, and consistently sympathetic. Delors, a native Frenchwoman, provides a comprehensive yet intricately detailed portrait of this turbulent era and its characters—from the proud Queen herself to a rapacious, money-grubbing landlord. A most impressive literary debut, this outstanding novel of the French Revolution is well worth reading.

Share this review

Editors' choice






(US) 9780525950547




Appeared in

Reviewed by