2008, Atlas & Co.
One of the great literary forces of her age, or any age,
Germaine de Staël was born into the political and intellectual
aristocracy of her time. The daughter of Jacques Necker, Louis
XVI's finance minister, she married Sweden's ambassador to the
French court and for two decades held the limelight as a political
figure and prolific writer. Admittedly not a beauty, she was
nonetheless notoriously seductive and enjoyed whirlwind affairs
with some of the most influential men of her time. She was demonized
by Napoleon for her forthrightness, her powerful intellect,
and her prestigious salon, a hothouse of subversive ideas and
sexual intrigue. The emperor exiled her, on and off, for the
last two decades of her life. Madame de Staël - force of
nature, exuberant idealist, and ultimate enthusiast - waged
a lifelong struggle against all that was tyrannical, cynical,
or passionless in her time, and left a legacy of enlightened
liberalism that radiated throughout Europe during the nineteenth
Francine du Plessix Gray does a marvelous job in Madame de
Stael, filling us in on the French Revolution as though it were
(almost) easy to understand, recognizing de Stael's faults (delusions
of grandeur, mostly), while steadfastly commending her talents,
her sweet nature, her generosity. I loved this book!
Carolyn See, The Washington Post
Faithful to de StaŽl's incessant energy, Gray follows her movements
at a forceful pace, masterfully commanding a wide cast of characters
while streamlining the frantic narrative of her subject's life.
Gray's absorbing work joins only a handful of biographies dedicated
to the life of this remarkable woman. Highly recommended for
all libraries that support French history and literature collections.