Ribbons of Scarlet – Review


Ribbons of Scarlet
A Novel of the French Revolution’s Women

by:
Kate Quinn
Sophie Perinot
Laura Kamoie
Stephanie Dray
E. Knight
Heather Webb

Genre: Historical Fiction

Length: 560 Pages

Release date: October 1, 2019

Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks

Synopsis: 

Six bestselling and award-winning authors bring to life a breathtaking epic novel illuminating the hopes, desires, and destinies of princesses and peasants, harlots and wives, fanatics and philosophers—six unforgettable women whose paths cross during one of the most tumultuous and transformative events in history: the French Revolution.

Ribbons of Scarlet is a timely story of the power of women to start a revolution—and change the world.

In late eighteenth-century France, women do not have a place in politics. But as the tide of revolution rises, women from gilded salons to the streets of Paris decide otherwise—upending a world order that has long oppressed them.

Blue-blooded Sophie de Grouchy believes in democracy, education, and equal rights for women, and marries the only man in Paris who agrees. Emboldened to fight the injustices of King Louis XVI, Sophie aims to prove that an educated populace can govern itself–but one of her students, fruit-seller Louise Audu, is hungrier for bread and vengeance than learning. When the Bastille falls and Louise leads a women’s march to Versailles, the monarchy is forced to bend, but not without a fight. The king’s pious sister Princess Elisabeth takes a stand to defend her brother, spirit her family to safety, and restore the old order, even at the risk of her head.

But when fanatics use the newspapers to twist the revolution’s ideals into a new tyranny, even the women who toppled the monarchy are threatened by the guillotine. Putting her faith in the pen, brilliant political wife Manon Roland tries to write a way out of France’s blood-soaked Reign of Terror while pike-bearing Pauline Leon and steely Charlotte Corday embrace violence as the only way to save the nation. With justice corrupted by revenge, all the women must make impossible choices to survive–unless unlikely heroine and courtesan’s daughter Emilie de Sainte-Amaranthe can sway the man who controls France’s fate: the fearsome Robespierre.

ratingfive

My thanks to NetGalley and William Morrow for sending me an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by the publisher. 

“Beautiful, terrible humanity. Capable of the most inspiring and creative genius and the greatest and most unimaginable abominations.”

I’ve had a bit of an ongoing effort to read more historical fiction that isn’t set during World War II, and this novel was an easy choice because, hello, Kate Quinn. If you’ve never read any of her work, I (obviously) recommend this book, but also The Alice Network and The HuntressRibbons of Scarlet is set during the French Revolution and focuses on women’s role in these events.

The format of this novel worked very well. I’ve seen a lot of misunderstanding about this book online. Because of the number of authors listed, a lot of people have assumed it is a collection of short stories set during the same time period, and this is not the case. The novel follows a single linear narrative following the course of the revolution, but each section introduces a new point of view character. This is different from most novels with multiple POV characters in that, for the most part, we do not return to a character once we move on from her singular section. We get one peek into each woman’s perspective and then she is lost to us. I worried that this would feel disjointed overall, but this was absolutely not the case, and it provided an excellent opportunity to look at some of the same events through different eyes.

Despite what must have been a very difficult process, the six authors meshed very well together. Even while jumping from one one woman’s perspective to another relatively unrelated woman’s section, there is a strong sense of a central narrative following the course of the revolution. Each woman has a wildly different perspective on the historical moment they are inhabiting, and each perspective seems fully fleshed out and genuine.

It was refreshing to see a war novel which focuses exclusively on women’s experiences, as these are often overlooked. French women played a significant role in the revolution and women of different social classes were impacted in very different ways. It was particularly interesting to me to spend time in the mind of a female members of the aristocracy, who, while they did enjoy the benefits of wealth leading up to the revolution, often had little to no power of their own. In the end, they bore the consequences of the actions of their husbands and fathers alongside them.

Ribbons of Scarlet is an illuminating novel about a fascinating piece of French history. Seamlessly told and heartbreaking, this book is a jewel.

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The Huntress, by Kate Quinn (Review)


The Huntress
by Kate Quinn

Genre: Historical Fiction

Length: 560 Pages

Release date: February 26, 2019

Publisher: William Morrow

Synopsis: 

From the author of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling novel, The Alice Network, comes another fascinating historical novel about a battle-haunted English journalist and a Russian female bomber pilot who join forces to track the Huntress, a Nazi war criminal gone to ground in America.

In the aftermath of war, the hunter becomes the hunted…

Bold, reckless Nina Markova grows up on the icy edge of Soviet Russia, dreaming of flight and fearing nothing. When the tide of war sweeps over her homeland, she gambles everything to join the infamous Night Witches, an all-female night bomber regiment wreaking havoc on Hitler’s eastern front. But when she is downed behind enemy lines and thrown across the path of a lethal Nazi murderess known as the Huntress, Nina must use all her wits to survive.

British war correspondent Ian Graham has witnessed the horrors of war from Omaha Beach to the Nuremberg Trials. He abandons journalism after the war to become a Nazi hunter, yet one target eludes him: the Huntress. Fierce, disciplined Ian must join forces with brazen, cocksure Nina, the only witness to escape the Huntress alive. But a shared secret could derail their mission, unless Ian and Nina force themselves to confront it.

Seventeen-year-old Jordan McBride grows up in post WWII Boston, determined despite family opposition to become a photographer. At first delighted when her long-widowed father brings home a fiancée, Jordan grows increasingly disquieted by the soft-spoken German widow who seems to be hiding something. Armed only with her camera and her wits, Jordan delves into her new stepmother’s past and slowly realizes there are mysteries buried deep in her family. But Jordan’s search for the truth may threaten all she holds dear.

ratingfour

My thanks to William Morrow for sending me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by the publisher. 

Kate Quinn has such a remarkable gift when it comes to creating seriously captivating characters. It’s been almost a week since I finished reading and I keep finding myself thinking about Nina, a ruthless, Nazi-killing hellcat who probably really needs a hug. I love Nina to death, and her adoration for real-life Night Witch Marina Raskova had me wanting to learn more about these women. (If anyone knows any good documentaries, drop a link in the comments and I’ll love you forever.)

At 560 pages, The Huntress is a somewhat lengthy read, and I found myself annoyed every time I had to put it down. Despite the backdrop of war and violence, the story isn’t super action packed or fast-paced. It’s a bit of a slow burn and very character driven.

I (obviously) found Nina to be the most compelling character, but the story is told through three separate point of view characters. Nina’s perspective takes place during the war, whereas Jordan and Ian’s perspectives take place after, during Ian’s hunt for the infamous Nazi known as The Huntress. Nina exists in both timelines, as she teams up with Ian, but her direct perspective is limited to her life leading up to the war through the first day she meets Ian. Nina comes from a remarkably dysfunctional family, with a drunken and abusive father and siblings she describes as more or less feral. She is damaged in a lot of ways, but her hardships also prepared her for the harshness of war.

Ian also made for a really compelling character. No spoilers here, but he has a personal vendetta that fuels a lot of his desire to take down The Huntress. He has a background as a war correspondent, and gives off a distinct air of survivor’s guilt. He saw a lot of atrocities during his reporting on the war, and I think Quinn really nailed down the psychology of what that can do to a person. Ian, like a lot of people who has endured trauma, has internalized this idea that he hasn’t fully “earned” his emotional disturbances. Soldiers fought and died on the front lines; he wrote articles about it. In the aftermath of trauma, it’s sadly so common to see people downplay what happened to them, to dismiss their rights to their own feelings on the basis that someone else had it worse. Ian exemplifies this mindset and I really appreciated seeing an author portray a character like this in a way that seems to validate that struggle.

Jordan, the final POV character, is a normal young girl living in America who has her life turned upside-down by The Huntress and those who are searching for her. She has suspicions about her new step-mother early on, which she buries to keep her father happy. A lot of her story line, however, has little to do with the rest of the book. She is a budding young photographer who wants to create a career for herself in a time when women were largely expected to get married and be housewives. She sees nearly every scene as if she’s looking through her camera, constantly mentally framing shots even when she doesn’t have her camera with her.

I absolutely enjoyed every page of this story. Quinn’s last novel, The Alice Network, was a ridiculously tough act to follow, but The Huntress did not disappoint in the slightest. This novel is an excellent choice for fans of The Lost Girls of Paris, Lilac Girls. and of course, Kate Quinn’s past work.

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Thank you for reading! Have you read The Huntress? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

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