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Paris: Biography of a City [Paperback]

Colin Jones
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
RRP: £14.99
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Book Description

6 April 2006

'Paris is the World, the rest of the Earth is nothing but its suburbs' - Marivaux

In this intelligently-written and supremely entertaining new history, Colin Jones seeks to give a sense of the city of Paris as it was lived in and experienced over time. The focal point of generation upon generation of admirers and detractors, a source of attraction or repulsion even for those who have never been there, Paris has witnessed more extraordinary events than any other major city. No spot on earth has been more walked around, written about, discussed, painted and photographed. With an eye for the revealing, startling and (sometimes) horrible detail, Colin Jones takes the reader from Roman Paris to the present, recreating the ups and downs in the history of the city and its inhabitants. Attentive to both the urban environment and to the experience of those who lived within it, PARIS: BIOGRAPHY OF A CITY will be hugely enjoyed by habitual Paris obsessives, by first-time visitors, and by those who know the city only by repute.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (6 April 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140282920
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140282924
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 87,022 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Colin Jones is Professor of History at the University of Warwick. He is the author of The Great Nation (Penguin) and The Cambridge Illustrated History of France.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
There's no shortage of guides to Paris for the English-speaker; there are plenty, too, that stray off the beaten track and take in the less touristed quarters of the city, that cover Belleville and Bercy as well as the Īle de la Cité and the Champs-Elysées. However, for the English-speaker who wants a feeling for the city's variety over time as well as space, who wants detail on how the city grew and treasures the quirky details and unvisited suburbs as well as the main boulevards - the sort of detail that's copiously available on London, of course - there's much less. Colin Jones's history, then, fills a need, and fills it brilliantly.

There's a detailed history of the growth of Paris, covering both the politics and also, more importantly, the social history - the river-merchants' trade and their guild are crucial, as witness the ship on the arms of the city. Jones also, in a series of "side-bars", explores particular themes or localities in a manner that cuts across the chronology and opens up fascinating sidelights on the city - subjects here include the Roman amphitheatre, the Arènes de Lutéce, which was lost under the growing city and remains strangely off the tourist trails; the Rue Mouffetard and its role first as major artery out of the medieval city and then as Bohemian hang-out in the early twentieth century; lost rivers such as the Bièvre, the iceworks on which gave its name to the Glacière metro stop, and so on.

I could have done with a little more information on the area outside the fortifications, the "banlieu" beyond the Ville-de-Paris department (Jones covers its modern form well, but we hear little about these settlements before the city sweeps over them in the twentieth century) but this is a trifling point: this is a fantastic guide to the multi-layered history of the city and warmly recommended to any English speaker visiting the city or just wanting to wallow in it vicariously.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Books about Paris are so numerous - ranging from the dryly academic to pap designed for a teleseries - that another needs to stand out to justify itself. Colin Jones' fascinating Biography of a City does just that. It begins with Paris under the Roman empire and ends with an optimistic view of the city in the 21st century. Throughout, Jones never lets great learning make for heavy reading. Jones clearly loves Paris but he avoids any temptation to clichéd sentimentality. This helps make his book on Paris probably the best for decades. It has some very original illustrations (though only in monochrome) and is handily portable. Lengthy boxes - on famous monuments such as the Café Procope, Victor Hugo and the Eiffel Tower, or oddities like the Arcades and the Catacombs - break the book entertainingly. Whether you are planning a first visit to Paris or want to delve far more deeply into its history, it is probably the best book around on the subject.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and Comprehensive 2 Feb 2009
By PeterH
I read this before, during and after a recent trip to Paris. Colin Jones' research has obviously been enormous, but he manages to leaven a huge volume of information with lively anecdotes and telling images. It certainly added greatly not only to my knowledge but also to my enjoyment of Paris.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Paris: Biography of a City 18 April 2006
Like most people I love to visit Paris and have done so on more than one occasion. At times there is a distinct lack of English at the majority of 'sights' and 'tourist' destinations. I had a desire to learn more beyond the tourist leaflets and booklets I could find. This book is a very readable explanation of the times of Paris from early beginnings. It also contains many illustrations. A must read before you go...or on your return!
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