The French Revolution
Stewart, Matt (Author)
Jul 2010. 320 p. Soft Skull, paperback, $15.95. (9781593762834).
First released as a series of roughly 3,700 tweets on Twitter (@thefrenchrev), Stewart’s zany debut cleverly reimagines the central events of the French Revolution in a thrilling novel that explores the meaning of success and the unlikely bonds that unite a family. On Bastille Day, 1989, Esmeralda Van Twinkle, once San Francisco’s reigning pastry chef but now a morbidly obese copy shop manager, gives birth to twins Robespierre and Marat after an impetuous love affair with Jasper Winslow, a genial coupon distributor. When Jasper mysteriously disappears, Esmeralda is forced to move in with Fanny, her lonely, tyrannical mother. As the twins become teens and Fanny’s demands become intolerable, they rebel, Robespierre turning to education and social reform; Marat to pot, pranks, and fighting in the Middle East; while together they seek to help Esmeralda restore her dignity and former charisma. Deep-cutting and full of cartoonish surprises, Stewart’s hilariously bawdy satire casts fresh light in a dark corner of the past while portraying a family whose members have somehow survived history. Now, if only they can endure each other. — Jonathan Fullmer