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3.8 out of 5 stars56
3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 20 October 2003
All of Simon Shama's books are worth reading, and this is one of his best. It is tremendously insightful, full of telling details that bring the period to life. It is also well leavened with humour, making it as light a read as any book on such a weighty subject could be. I found it an excellent starting point for exploring various aspects of the subject in more detail. A superb book.
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on 25 August 2005
That, at least, seems to be what Simon Schama wanted you to think after reading this book -- which of course is fifteen years old now, a fact not mentioned in the sneaky reissue. There is no doubt that it is a tour de force of narrative writing, but let's not forget that narrative means 'story-telling', and all Schama can do here is tell ONE story about the Revolution. It's a story made up of blood-curdling violence that never seems to happen for a reason -- indeed any sense that there might have been reasons for it is submerged in splendidly-composed but morally-vacuous tales of elite sufferings. Schama really does not seem to care about the truly stunning social inequalities that disfigured France before 1789, and is content to blame those who tried to change things, while scarcely ever bothering to mention the civil war unleashed by the aristocrats who wanted to keep the population in servitude. Schama wrote this book to play up to a certain, particularly American, romanticised sentimentality about guillotined aristocrats. Given their own revolutionary history, Americans should know better. Read this if you must, it's an enjoyable romp, but don't kid yourself that you're learning why the French Revolution REALLY happened.
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on 23 March 2016
Too much setting the scene the Bastille is not stormed until page 331 in my version. Only to learn that the Revolution was caused by the price of a 4 pound loaf of bread. Perhaps that's why the French are renowned for their bread sticks.
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on 11 December 2014
Amazing history! Absolutely love the book
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on 28 July 2011
This isn't that much of a book to study intensly or to base a module on. However, the narrative style does solidify a firm chronological base that is essential when considering the debates on the revolution. Schama does make a case for violence being the "motor of the revolution" but he is ultimatly unconvincing in his argument. This is a flaw of his reliance on anecdotal history, however the anecdotes make the book readable. It is not vital to read this but it can be useful when adding tot he tessera of causes that one must take in to account when evaluating the revolution.
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on 9 February 2015
Excellent read, compelling.
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on 3 January 2015
Informative and learned.
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on 28 September 2015
I don't know what the quality of the illustrations are like in the printed edition, but in the Kindle version they are absolutly appalling!! They look as though they have been photocopied on a defective black and white copier (not even colour). The maps are absolutely useles. There is no way Amazon should have presented this book for sale without a warning of the poor quality of the illustrations.
Simon Schama's writing and knowledge is, as usual, first class, making a confusing and convoluted period of french history exciting and accessable and for this alone the book should merit a five star. Why should you have to pay almost £7 for a second rate copy - I coulds have got it for free as a PDF on the web for nothing!
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on 15 February 2014
Very well written and clear to understand. Much more life and humour than most history books. Helped me to follow Hilary Mantel's novel "A Place of Greater Safety" Very funny in places. I found the description of the storming of the Bastille especially good and hilarious... not the way I had pictured it at all!
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on 24 May 2016
No problems
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