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About The Beasts of Paris by Stef Penney
A diverse group of memorable characters find themselves in Paris during the build up to the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. Dreamer Anne is half-Haitian, possessed of incredible gifts, but with a past she tries to bury; Lawrence is desperate to spread his wings, develop his talents as a photographer, and escape the restrictions of his Canadian upbringing; Ellis, an American army surgeon, has lived through the trauma of the American Civil War and will do anything to avoid further violence. We join these characters and others as they live through, and are buffeted by, momentous historical events that will change them forever.
The Franco-Prussian War ends in a devastating defeat for the French after the Siege of Paris, in which countless Parisians die of starvation and cold during a bitter winter. This terrible time is quickly followed by yet more horror: the socialist revolution of the Paris Commune that seizes the government, briefly, until it is brutally crushed by the French Army.
Against this backdrop our characters meet, struggle, grow, fight their demons, lose their hearts, find love. The reader witnesses the ebb and flow of history as the characters confront a changing world around them. And although set in the nineteenth century, the novel explores questions that are uniquely contemporary: issues of gender, sexuality, inequality, and race.