Publication Date: July 28, 2015
In 1894 Captain Richard Dreyfus, a French Artillery Officer was convicted of treason for passing military secrets to the Germans. Dreyfus was sent to Devil’s Island in French Guiana to live out his sentence. When a few years later evidence that Dreyfus was innocent was discovered, the French military did everything they could to suppress the information. French journalist, Emile Zola, ran with the story of the gross injustice in the periodical J’Accuse and became a target of those looking to keep the story under wraps and Dreyfus incarcerated. To Live Out Loud is the story of this historic case and Zola’s coverage of it and the ultimate pursuit of justice at all costs.
The author sent a copy of this novel in exchange for my review.
In fiction there are absolutes. Good vs. Evil is a simple concept. To Live Out Loud takes a true injustice that happened to a real person and simplifies it to its base qualities for an introduction to an audience that may never have learned about the Dreyfus Affair in their primary-level, history class. In a truth being stranger than fiction sense, Mahurin takes the facts of the case and lays them out in an easy-to-follow format with the ultimate result being more of Zola’s involvement in the case and his ploy to free the falsely convicted captain.
Mahurin’s writing style is very direct. Her simplistic style allows her to tell a complete and very complicated story in a scant 178 pages. Fiction allows leeway for human motivations and conclusions, but while Mahurin does add her own take on Zola’s motivations, she sticks fairly close to the generally accepted narrative. Mahurin’s word picture of the environment of antisemitism and no holds barred suppression of those that knew the truth, is both awful and factual. Historically speaking, the Dreyfus Affair was an intricate and insidious conspiracy. What Zola did, he did to bring the case to light despite those desperately trying to keep it under wraps to force the government to do the just thing through public exposure. People suspect today that his ultimate passing as a consequence of involvement, though experts consider that unlikely despite the multiple attempts made on his life during the height of his fervent involvement in Captain Dreyfus’ case.
I was familiar with the Dreyfus Affair before reading To Live Out Loud. As someone interested in history, I appreciated the picture that Mahurin gives us of Europe at the time. There’s an electricity of fear and suspicion in the people. It was believed that Dreyfus would be a traitor because he was a Jew. There were those that thought even after he was exonerated that his conviction was ultimately for the good of the country and not for the self-interest of those that sought to suppress the truth.
Mahurin’s writing is elegant in its direct simplicity. Taking the fictional route she draws readers into a historical fiction roller coaster and takes them on a straightforward route from A-Z which, I think, will inspire many readers to research the case further. Mahurin has a track record in her fiction of shining a light on the attitudes and atrocities of the past, humanizing the subject for the readers and serving as a cautionary tale without preaching to them. To Live Out Loud is well edited and a read that some will find too quick.
To Live Out Loud is an outstanding work of historical fiction and a must-read for everyone, especially those interested in the history of human rights violations. Pick it up today.
Read an excerpt and buy To Live Out Loud: A Novel by Paulette Mahurin on
To read an interview with Paulette Mahurin and Rabid Reader’s Reviews, click here.