Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Ribbons of Scarlet - A Novel of The French Revolution's Women

As a self-professed bibliophile and fancophile, books set in France hit my sweet spot. I studied French history in university and read many academic texts about the French Revolution. When I learned about the book Ribbons of Scarlet, I immediately knew that I'd enjoy a literary novel about this tumultuous time, especially as it's written through the eyes of the women involved. (Unsurprisingly, my assigned academic readings all focused on the main male politicians at the time.)


Ribbons of Scarlet is a historical fiction novel of the French revolution from the perspective of women who were there before, during, and after. What makes this novel initially compelling is that it is authored by six female authors: Kate Quinn, Stephanie Dray, Laura Kamoie, Sophie Perinot, Heather Webb, and E. Knight. Ribbons of Scarlet is simultaneously six short stories and one cohesive novel. I've never read anything quite like it.

While this novel will appeal to all historical fiction fans, this is a deeply story about women. About their voices, their value, and their often unacknowledged role in history. Women throughout history are regularly caught in the tension of what society expects women to be and who they truly are. How do you speak when you are asked to be silent? How can you still ensure your words are heard? In Ribbons of Scarlet, the reader learns of, as Heather Webb describes in her author's note, "six incredible women who shaped the French Revolution through their pens, their speeches, their battles in the streets, and their sacrifices."

We hear from Sophie de Grouchy, a woman who embodies the ideals of the feminist movement, Lousie Reine Audu, a revolutionary, Princess Élisabeth, King Louis XVI's sister, Manon Roland, who passionately worked with her husband in government after the royal family was exiled (and executed), Charlotte Corday, who famously assassinated Jean-Paul Marat, and Émilie de Sainte-Amaranthe, a Paris beauty who will capture the hearts of the readers with her story.

The dedication in Ribbons of Scarlett

I can't possibly begin to imagine the planning these authors would have completed to ensure their stories are as historically accurate as possible while being consistent throughout throughout six sections. Not to mention that the majority of the resources available to study for research were likely in French.

This novel isn't perfect. With seven different first-person points of view to read, I did get a little overwhelmed at times; however, the lengthly authors' notes at the end more than made up for it. To save me from having to Google what parts of this story are true, each of the six authors share the research they found, which pieces are speculation, and why they made the decisions they did for the their characters. The women in the novel are real historical figures, and Ribbons of Scarlet encourages us to remember their names. I can see myself rereading it again, as I'm sure there is more to this story that I'd learn should I pick it up a second time.

Ribbons of Scarlet is available as of today (yeah!) from your favourite bookseller.

xo
Jenn

Disclaimer - I received a complementary copy of this novel from Harper Collins Canada for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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