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I was actually dreading listening to this, imagining a long, drawn-out historical novel, crammed with mind-numbing facts. I used to spend several months a year in my favorite city in the world, and thought I had gotten to know it quite well--much better than the typical tourist fare. I had lived there as a Parisian. But, was I in for a surprise!
I wish there was a way to give this more than 5 stars--it deserves it! It is the most absorbing way to learn how Paris became the Paris of today, and what makes up the blood, sentiments, politics and fierce libertarians Parisians are today. This is an incredible story, spanning centuries, and allowing you to live, feel and love the way Parisians did at any given point in its incredible history. Their resilience and pride rarely faltered, and were well-won. Peeling off the layers upon layers of rich tradition and strife allows you and unparalleled insight into the Parisian spirit. Their liberties were always challenged, and winning them was hard fought. Their rule was an experimentation of most types of government, from monarchy to conquerers to religious atrocities to communism. The people always triumphed, and their deeply rooted sense of fairness in all matters shines through.
Their perspectives on honor, love, romance, work ethic and loyalty are epic, and somehow created the country that gave us our symbol of freedom, the Statue of Liberty. It is beyond fascinating to discover the intricacies of how the huge structure was built to endure. The same is true of perhaps the most famous structure in the world, the Eiffel Tower. The engineering was incredible, as was the courage of the workers who, eventually, on their own, stopped the Nazis from ever ascending to its top.
I was devastated when the book finally ended; the many parts sped by, and my education about the development of Paris through the ages grew painlessly, and quite enjoyably. It is a delight to hear; and, whether a Francophile or anyone who just wants a great story, this is something you will not want to pass up. It is an awesome and thoroughly enjoyable listen.
16 of 16 people found this review helpful
I have eagerly awaited this book for months--as I have been a great fan of Edward Rutherfurd's other books for many years! This one definitely does not disappoint in any way. It is written with the epic scope of all his other books, although he did not imaginatively stretch as far back in history as he has done with some others (and I did wonder why, since it would have been quite interesting to hear more about the Parisii tribe, which lent it's name to Paris).
The beauty of this book is that even while there is a train of stories of several families (interspersed with some actual historical people) who intertwine and provide continuity to the reader from the period of 1261 to 1968, it is Paris itself, who is always the main character in this book!
In his book "Sarum," Rutherfurd used the building of the Salisbury Cathedral--a magnificent tribute to God with it's soaring spire, as it exemplified the changing and developing religious values of England during that period as a background to his story. In "Paris," he uses the building of la Tour Eiffel (Eiffel Tower) as the grounding point for the book. It seems to me that this tall structure (shocking to many when built), points to the changing times and mindset of the French people in the more modern Paris, moving away from traditional structures and ways of viewing the world. Throughout the book, Rutherfurd patiently creates the sense of strong tradition of social rules and expectations everywhere in French society. The building of this new sort of lofty tower (and his focus on the impressionist painters), both of which visibly break from everyone's expectations, seem to parallel the astonishing changes experienced by everyone as the old social structures and government begin to alter so radically in every way in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Rutherfurd has done his usual masterful job of meticulous research, and it is often the tiny details that bring the reader directly into the city, feeling almost an inhabitant of the times he focuses on. The three main families who evolve through the book depict aristocrats, the bourgeoisie, and thieves who eventually turn into revolutionaries. It is typical of Rutherfurd to keep the same families in his books, which provides continuity for the reader who is moving through huge passages of history. Unlike other books, however, these families seem never to change in their social positions. However, Paris itself does move and change (or it feels that way) as the fortunes of the times (wars, religious disputes, changes of royal power, the shift to new kinds of government, etc) seem to create new ways of experiencing what it means to live in this great city.
The narrator has done a magnificent job--her ability to give varying voices to an enormous cast of characters is exceptional! Her voice quality is very engaging for the entire book. "Paris" is all that I had hoped for and more. I love Paris (the city)--and I could mentally see many of the places that were being focused on throughout the city. And I found that at times, I looked up some of the places (like Versailles, Montmartre, etc), on my tablet--to better visualize the parts of this magnificent story under focus, which made it almost like being back there again. I highly recommend this book! But give yourself plenty of time to listen to it, as it is quite long, and packed with so many details--that I am already planning to listen again (and again). Thank you Mr. Rutherfurd!
46 of 49 people found this review helpful