I suppose this book was written for a readership which is pretty well new to the subject, and which is more interested, as I think the author is, in recent than in more distant centuries. As such it is a workmanlike, if uneven, summary of the whole of French history in a mere 300 or so pages - uneven because the first half of the book takes us from the Cro-Magnon cave-dwellers to the 1880s, and the second half from the 1880s right up to the end of 2010. Jenkins gallops through the first 15 centuries in 45 pages; trots at a fair lick through the next 270 years in some 60 pages; then begins to slow down somewhat, until the last four decades are covered remarkably well in some 65 pages - much the best part of the book. He makes room for comments about the most important cultural figures, and these remarks, too, grow from a useful sentence or two in the middle of the book to more extensive passages as we go on. It is all a remarkable feat of compression. The penultimate chapter considers what might be the nature of the "French Exception", and there are a few similar pages at the very end; but, apart from that, there are no new reflections; and anyone who knows anything about any one period of French history is unlikely to learn anything new from the relevant pages - though there are some tit-bits like the Astérix view of the ancient Gauls; the church in the eleventh century trying to impose "The Truce of God" (that there should be no fighting between a Wednesday evening and a Monday morning); the homosexuality of Louis XIII (which was new to me, at any rate); the British attempt to blow up Napoleon Bonaparte in 1800 as he left the opening night of Haydn's Creation oratorio (ditto).