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Paris: The Secret History Paperback – 1 Mar 2007


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Paris: The Secret History + Seven Ages of Paris: Portrait of a City + Paris: Biography of a City
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Product details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (1 Mar. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141011130
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141011134
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 89,228 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Outrageously readable . . . a fascinating riot of a book (Simon Sebag-Montefiore)

Fascinating . . . A vivid sans-culottes history, from the street up (David Starkey)

Magnificent and entertaining . . . riveting (Jason Burke Observer)

About the Author

Andrew Hussey was born in 1963. He first went to Paris in the late 1970s, fired up by the punk revolution in his home town of Liverpool and with a thirst for anarchy and adventure. His first taste of Paris was busking in the metro: he was hooked. He has since lived and worked in Manchester, Lyons, Paris, Aberystwyth, Madrid and Barcelona, writing on the Nineties Parisian fashion for suicides, anarchy, radical Islam, art terrorism, Situationism, football, pornography and The Fall for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Andrew Hussey is a contributing editor of the Observer Sports Magazine, and Head of French and Comparative Literature at the University of London in Paris.

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Customer Reviews

3.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Booklively on 11 April 2010
Format: Paperback
An earlier reviewer mentioned factual inaccuracies. The book is riddled with them. For instance, Hussey puts the famous Chat Noir cabaret in the wrong era and the wrong area (it was in operation in the 1880s and 90s, in Montmartre - not in the 1920s in Montparnasse) and misattributes a famous line about place Dauphine being 'the sex of Paris' to André Malraux (it was André Breton's), then describes Malraux as 'usually the most staid and discreet of writers', a colossal absurdity (and it doesn't describe Breton, either). If a historian can't get this sort of thing right, he can't be trusted on anything else.
The jacket blurb promises 'a history book that can be taken to the bar' - perhaps because that's where it was written?
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Ribble on 22 Mar. 2009
Format: Paperback
I found this a very disappointing book. There's little that's truly 'secret' about it, and not much historical method either. It reads like a journalist's book,full of vague, general assertions without hard references to back them up. Colin Jones' 'Paris', though a tougher read, covers the same ground with much greater detail and rigour. I came away wondering why the book had been written, when the author seems to dislike so much about Paris.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By ParisReview on 3 July 2010
Format: Paperback
Quite simply: read Colin Jones' excellent 'Paris: Biography of a City' instead. When there are decent, readable, accurate and informative histories of Paris on the market already, why settle for less?
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28 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Birch VINE VOICE on 20 Dec. 2007
Format: Paperback
In short, this a 'Horrible History' for adults. It is not history in the academic sense. It's more like biography, and owes much to Peter Ackroyd's biography of London. Hussey doesn't deal in causes, trends or ideas; his currency is anecdotes. This a big book of gory and sexy titbits from Parisian history, sorted into chronological order.

The subject matter should make for light reading, but somehow, despite the breakneck pace of the anecdotes, something goes wrong. The small print, long paragraphs, and dry, humourless prose drag the book down. Furthermore, I'm no expert on the history of Paris, but when I did know a little bit about a period I noticed factual inaccuracies. For example, Danton was with the Cordeliers Club (not the Jacobin Club), and there was only one Committee of Public Safety in the Revolution, not many.

For these reasons, this book arguably gives you less value than a Horrible History. Hussey has sacrificed depth for breathless narrative in the hope of reaching out to a wide audience, but the stream of details feels laboured and aimless. Unlike the city, 'Paris: The Secret History' fails to capture the imagination, and is barely more fun than reading academic history.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By S. Pomfrett on 14 July 2011
Format: Paperback
I bought this in Paris as I fancied something to read on the area as an introduction to the history of one of the most important cities in the world. I found it quite difficult and dry (and I'm used to reading academic historical texts!), but it did lead me to do my own research.

I felt that some major incidents were glossed over in favour of more trivial generalisations of life in Paris; I felt that certain events in the Revolution, the Terror and World War II could have had more time given to them, especially as these are the events that were so important and famous to those living outside France.

I wanted to know about the seedy underworld of Paris that was promised and although there is a bit of that, there wasn't enough to warrant the title of a 'secret' history. I also agree with some of the other reviewers that Hussey himself creeps in a little bit too much in the main body of the text- an epilogue is fine, but you don't expect a write to pop up in his own chapters! It was a bit unnerving, really, rather than a major distraction.

Overall, a bit disappointed.
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