From the inky midnight-blue cover and its suspicious shadowy figure, Dark
in the City of Light immediately plunges into a dark, stormy
night in nineteenth-century Paris. There's a baron, a mysterious
telegram, and a prince. Before long, there's a sudden death,
a family move, and domestic conflict. Then historical events
come to life as the strained relationship between France and
Prussia leads them ever closer to war.
The plot revolves around an Austrian ambassador, Baron Harsanyi,
whose late wife's estate is of significant interest to several
countries. The Baron's children, both in their late teens, represent
more of the contrasting personalities of the time--the rebellious
son who would rather become an ambassador than enlist in military
school as his father wishes and the lovely daughter who is taken
in by a princess and molded into a society darling. The political
tensions increase as the plot turns this way and that, often at
a dizzying pace.
Eventually, France and Prussia are at war, with hard-to-distinguish
allies and enemies at every turn. The Harsanyi family experiences
loyalty and betrayal, sees the splendor of Paris succumb to the
ugliness of war, and finds itself fighting to stay together.
Because of the war descriptions and complicated family issues,
I would recommend this book for high school students and above.
It could be used as a complement to European/World History or as
a literature study on its own. Certainly it could be used as a
pleasure book as well.
Pros: I can't wait to read more by Mr. Robertson and
learn even more about nineteenth-century European history. I have
always been a big fan of U.S. history, particularly around the
Civil War era, but this book has sparked my desire to see what
else was happening in the world at the same time.
Cons: The beginning of the book is dark and cold and
almost hard to understand. However, as the story unfolds, the foreboding
style makes more sense as it accurately sets the stage for the
story to come. It is certainly worth the effort.
This page-turning thriller is detailed in its descriptions without
being weighed down, informative without being patronizing, and
clever enough to weave historical facts into the fabric of conflict,
intrigue, and relationships. It was not a quick read, but it was
a thoroughly enjoyable one. I would recommend both reading Dark
in the City of Light as well as permanently adding it to your
bookshelf in the historical fiction section.