Friday, March 16, 2018

Book Review: 'Julien's Terror' by Laura Rahme

Australian French author Laura Rahme, born in Dakar, Senegal, is o f Lebanese, French and Vietnamese origins. Her degrees are in Engineering and Psychology and she has served as a web developer, analyst programmer and business analyst. Her published works include THE MING STORYTELLERS, THE MASCHERARI: A NOVEL OF VENICE and now JULIEN’S TERROR – stories that blend history and culture. She lives in Sydney, Australia.

Setting the tone for a novel based on historical fact succeeds best when the author recalls a timeframe with information about the period before launching into the story. Laura does precisely that – and does it well: ‘Nantes, November 1793 - Nantes on a silent November night. Nantes the crown of Brittany, more Breton than French, provincial at heart, worldly of mind – a giant of commerce, a proud maritime port. Now asleep. Nantes and her chateau, once the seat of a young queen, ruler of both France and Brittany. Nantes and her dark prestige, with her fleet of slave ships destined for continents of Africa and America. For over forty years, a leader among her sisters - Lorient, La Rochelle, and Bordeaux, in the sinister trade of black ebony. It was not too long ago that the Romans conquered her, dressed her in stone, paved her roads, and transformed her Loire River into a burgeoning trade channel. Nantes- and her river. In later centuries, the city saw the invading Vikings. They spread terror. They desecrated her monasteries. Their ships filled the Loire. Nantes, and her river. Now four years since the fall of the Bastille, a new terror has settled here, a terror dispatched from Paris. The events of this November night unfold during France’s Terror. A span of barely a year. Short, but it marks the Loire forever. Since October, the scourge of Nantes is that ex-lawyer, that monster, Jean-Baptiste Carrier. It is a name he has himself carved into the annals of crime through his violent nature and endless atrocities. But he is not alone. He receives orders from Paris, where the Committee of Public Safety urges him to purge Nantes. Purge Nantes. Nantes, and her river.’ The terror begins.

Laura condenses her long story in a brief synopsis – ‘FRANCE, 1794 - The Reign of Terror - Julien d'Aureville, a young boy from a broken home in Paris, meets a fugitive aristocrat who changes his life. As the Terror subsides and Napoleon rises to power, Julien's fortunes improve. Then he meets the mysterious Marguerite. Upon her marriage to Julien, Marguerite Lafolye has all a Parisian woman could ever wish. Yet something is not quite right. Is Marguerite hiding a dark secret? When she attempts to see into Marguerite, even the celebrated fortuneteller, Marie Anne Lenormand, cannot read her cards. From bourgeois Paris to the canals of Napoleon's Venice, Marguerite seems to be living a lie. Who is she really? What drives her obsession with the late Dauphin, Louis-Charles, son of Marie-Antoinette? Could the answer lie in a memory - in Nantes' orphanage, or in the hidden underground caves of war-torn Vendée, or else in the secret refuge of Gralas Forest, deep in Western France? Or could the answer be right here, in Paris, within the forbidding walls of the Temple Prison that Napoleon threatens to destroy, and where the Dauphin tragically perished. In this chilling psychological tale set in revolutionary France, a young couple confront their darkest fears. Looming above them, between healing and oblivion, lies the French Republic's most shocking secret.’

Immerse yourself in the well-scribed page of this intriguing novel. Laura Rahme ends her book with an Afterword that brings light into the French Revolution atrocities – a wise decision on her part to make the visit to that period even more memorable. Grady Harp, March 18

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.