This is the first of many books I’ve read and reviewed this past month. I was sent some wonderful books this batch; it’s been a while since I gave so many 5 and 4 star reviews. The Christmas break, plus two enormous parcels of books to review, means I’ve not been able to do any ‘off-piste’ reading at all since before Christmas. There are three books by good friends and fellow writers that I’m desperate to finish and review, but with only two books left in my ‘official’ pile, the worky bit of reading is all but done, and I should finally be able to read for fun – at last. And look! That rhymes. Aren’t I clever?

Illumination, by Matthew Plampin

5 stars

As always, Matthew Plampin brings history to life in the form of a wonderfully paced tale about the everyday horrors of life in Paris during the siege.

Illumination is a little slow to start, it took a few chapters for me to really get into it, but slowly, by inches, the plot winds itself into a tight, addictive, absorbing tale, as Clem and Hanna Pardy – a pair of not altogether likeable English twins, and their mother Elizabeth, a domineering, ambitious writer – become trapped in Paris during the Franco-Prussian War. All is set against a background of artists and café society, revolutionary communards, rabble-rousers, courtesans, balloonists and spies, to form a wonderfully twisted tale of ambition, deceit and double-dealing.

I love Matthew Plampin’s writing, and while Illumination doesn’t quite match his incandescent The Street Philosopher, it’s not too far behind. The history makes an impeccable and detailed background for the lives of his characters – wonderfully well-drawn personalities. I never once felt I was reading about imaginary characters, these people felt absolutely real.