A break from poetry today to showcase a few lines from a brilliant novel.
Decades before English writer Hilary Mantel won the Booker Prize twice in four years (becoming the only woman to win the prize twice and the only writer to win it for a sequel), she wrote another historical novel, A Place of Greater Safety. The book follows French revolutionaries Robespierre, Desmoulins and Danton from cradle to guillotine (beheading seems to be Mantel’s particular interest). I’m reading it now, less than a quarter way through, and already I’m wearing out my pen with underlining, stars and exclamation points.
So far I’ve sent two excerpts to my kids, and those I’ll share here. I hope my daughters, in particular, take Mantel’s wisdom to heart.
The first is the advice given to a young Robespierre by a priest:
“Most people are lazy, and will take you at your own valuation. Make sure the valuation you put on yourself is high.”
The second is Mantel’s judgment of King Louis XVI:
“He hoped that by refusing to make decisions he could avoid making mistakes.”
I haven’t read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, but I doubt her words could speak to me half so powerfully as Mantel’s.