When we think of the French Revolution, our minds often conjure images of violence in the streets of Paris. Peasants, lusting for revenge, storming the Bastille. And, reigning over all of it, the ferocious guillotine, dripping with the blood of the rich and the powerful. But there is another side to those days of fire and smoke. Quiet countrysides, rolling hills, blue skies, and peasants. So many peasants. Joining us today is one of them, a scrappy young woman named Laurette.
NovelPASTimes: Thank you for joining us, Laurette.
NovelPASTimes: May I offer you some tea?
Laurette: Yes, please.
NovelPASTimes: Something to eat? Sandwich?
Laurette: Yes, please.
NovelPASTimes: This last bit of scorched potato soup scraped from the pan?
Laurette: Seems a shame to let it go to waste . . .
NovelPASTimes: So, it’s true what we’ve heard, about the extreme poverty. It extends beyond the city? Throughout the country?
Laurette: I only know about my village, Mouton Blanc. But I can tell you that the people there are hungry. Hungrier than they have ever been in my lifetime.
NovelPASTimes: Because of the drought?
Laurette: That, and the fact that we have a corrupt system of government that allows the greatest amount of wealth to be concentrated among those who are already wealthy. It’s like feeding people who are already stuffed with food. But they must beware. Those who eat too much might find their insides erupting.
NovelPASTimes: Whoa—kind of graphic there for such a pretty girl.
Laurette: Sorry. Just something my friend Marcel said at dinner one night last winter.
NovelPASTimes: You sound like a revolutionary.
Laurette: Do I? I’m really just a girl, trying to survive. Would you like my recipe for thin-sliced bread?
Laurette: First, you take a loaf of bread. Then you slice it, papery thin.
NovelPASTimes: And then?
Laurette: That’s it. Slice and eat. You use your hand for a plate so you don’t waste any crumbs. This is how our mothers are feeding our children. And some do not even have bread to slice.
NovelPASTimes: Then you’ve heard what the queen said? When told that the people had no bread, Queen Marie Antoinette is supposed to have said, “Then let them eat cake.”
Laurette: Mmmmm . . . cake.
NovelPASTimes: You’re not offended by her callousness?
Laurette: I don’t believe in her callousness. I do not believe that our queen—a mother herself—could stand to know her people are starving. Her country’s childrenare starving. So if the people want to take up arms to bring food to their tables, then that is what they must do. Let them be moved by their empty bellies, not by empty words.
NovelPASTimes: Are those Marcel’s words, too?
Laurette: No. They are mine. Trust me when I tell you, this war—if it comes to war—will come down to the women. As all wars do.
NovelPASTimes: Well, then. Can I get you anything else? Pudding? Jam and bread?
Laurette: No, thank you. Sometimes a little hunger is what you need to go on to greater things.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Allison Pittman, author of more than a dozen critically acclaimed novels, is a three-time Christy finalist—twice for her Sister Wife series and once for All for a Storyfrom her take on the Roaring Twenties. She lives in San Antonio, Texas, blissfully sharing an empty nest with her husband, Mike.