Readers drawn to Allison Pataki and Owen Pataki’s novel about the French revolution, Where the Light Falls (Dial Press 2017), might pick up a copy while being wholly unaware that one of its main characters just happens to be a lawyer. Indeed, aside from the action on military fronts and at la place de la Révolution (known today as la place de la Concorde, where the Luxor Obelix now stands), where the guillotine was, much of the drama concerns legal proceedings accorded, or not, to the nobility following the beheadings of King Louis XVI and his much-despised queen, Marie-Antoinette.
Where the Light Falls or Where the Heads Fall?
In addition to acquainting readers with the despicable concept of droit du seigneur, in which a noble could have sexual relations with the bride of a vassal on her wedding night, this work of historical fiction also teaches readers about what many of us might take for granted: due process, particularly in capital cases. Death sentences were meted out fairly automatically after the storming of the Bastille prison in 1789, a time in which the people of France very much pursued the nobles and punished them seemingly just for existing within the system under Louis XVI.
The work’s lessons on due process are pertinent even today as others find their heads on proverbial chopping blocks after being accused of certain acts that are not at all noble. So too are the dilemmas one might find himself or herself in when called upon to work for change within a very flawed system.
A French Revolution for Everyone
But we get all of this in the context of a story that involves a dashing soldier or two, a kind-hearted lawyer just trying to do right by his country and its citizens, some not-so-kind-hearted lawyers misusing their newfound power mercilessly, and at least one female character who juggles home-keeping and child-rearing with furtive efforts to foster even more change. Also, there is more than one love story among all of these characters. Napoleon and some other notables make appearances. The Patakis, siblings and also the offspring of former New York Governor George Pataki, manage to provide a little something palatable to almost every reader. Our do-good lawyer and due-process advocate, Jean-Luc St. Clair, may be a little predictable, but. then, often good guys are.
Noteworthy Impact: The book serves as a reminder that revolution tends not to be the right-against-wrong cleancut victory that some seem to think such upheavals are. The toppling of a government tends to be the easy part, and France seemed to experience a lot of mayhem, violence, and a complete alteration of society as nobles were killed, churches destroyed, and uncertainty and fear became all-too-common emotions experienced by anyone who happened to be living in the country just then.