Customer Reviews


23 Reviews
5 star:
 (11)
4 star:
 (7)
3 star:
 (3)
2 star:
 (1)
1 star:
 (1)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars France with a Smile
This book should be compulsory reading for every traveller to France: no tourist, business person or expat should be allowed to cross the Channel without it. The author - a former colleague at the University of Sussex - knows all there is to know about French politics, society and culture, but he wears his learning lightly. He reports briefly but accurately all the major...
Published on 14 Aug 2011 by Professor L. Lob

versus
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not what it claims to b
This book is not really what the desription claims it is! As a Brit who makes frequent trips to France and having ploughed through Alistair Horne's Seven Ages of Paris, what I was looking for was a concise history of France written for someone fairly new to the subject. The description of the book claims it to be an "accessible" overview of the history people and...
Published on 30 Nov 2012 by Tim Davis


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not what it claims to b, 30 Nov 2012
This book is not really what the desription claims it is! As a Brit who makes frequent trips to France and having ploughed through Alistair Horne's Seven Ages of Paris, what I was looking for was a concise history of France written for someone fairly new to the subject. The description of the book claims it to be an "accessible" overview of the history people and culture of France, ie exactly what I was looking for. So I initially approached this book with great enthusiasm.

The fist 50 of the 300 pages was a whistle stop tour of the entire history of France up to the time of Louis XIV. Quite the feat to cram this into 50 pages. I got the impression that the author was probably glad to have reached this point so that he could then start to write about what really inrterests him. Thereafter the book concentrates overwhelmingly on the hostory of French politics with occasional asides regarding philosophy and literature. Historical facts seem to be mentioned in passing occasionally then back to the politics. Detailed information about elections with results to two decimal places is presented and as the book progresses through time the political detail increases. Hausmann's radical architectural transformation of Paris, something which impinges on a vistor to Paris perhaps more than any other single event in Paris's history receives less coverage than a single existential novel which is discussed in detail without any explanation of whether this was the seminal work or just one of many. As for the provincial towns they get barely a mention, the focus is always on the development of French politics.

I have no doubt from reading this book that Mr Jenkins is an absolute authority on French politics and matters and if one is looking for a French political history then this is undoubtedly an extremely good place to start. Whilst obviously any hisotry must be selctive as to what is discussed this book is however not what the description claims it to be. I actually wonder if the reviewer ever read the book because whilst it claims that you will learn how the Eiffel tower was built I never found this anywhere in the book.

Two things in the book made the long slog through the detailed political analysis worthwhile. Firstly the introduction to the book succintly nails why the English are so fascinated with all things French. And the penultimate chapter which halts the historical progression briefly in order to discuss what is unique about the French was also a delight to read.

So overall, one is left with no doubt that this is likely a scholarly work by an extremely informed individual, and despite its heavy going nature in places I am on balance glad that I have read it. I did not however find it very accessible and it did not do what I initially thought it was going to do. I am glad I read it and feel more informed about certain aspects of French history but I am still looking for an accessible overview of french history in more genral terms.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars France with a Smile, 14 Aug 2011
By 
This book should be compulsory reading for every traveller to France: no tourist, business person or expat should be allowed to cross the Channel without it. The author - a former colleague at the University of Sussex - knows all there is to know about French politics, society and culture, but he wears his learning lightly. He reports briefly but accurately all the major events that have shaped France from prehistoric times to our own day. He handles the big picture as convincingly as the telling detail, portraying mass movements as graphically as the quirks of outstanding individuals. He has a knack of identifying the decisive factor in each situation without being bogged down in side issues. He is always readable and never at a loss for the mot juste and a balanced judgment. While he has no illusions about history being made of conflict, treachery and bloodshed, he tells the story soberly, with flashes of deadpan humour. If the title of a well-known play about studying the language was French Without Tears, this excellent introduction to the country could be called France with a Smile. It will be welcome to all those who want to be entertained while learning to see beyond the infamous quip that the inferior races begin at Calais.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too focused on 1850's onwards, 29 Aug 2011
This review is from: A Brief History of France (Brief Histories) (Kindle Edition)
Good buy at 99p on Kindle, the author knows his history of France and the related philosophy, culture which both affected that history and was influenced by the history itself. The author manages to take his great knowledge and then write about the history of France in an involving and informative manner.

Why then only a 3 star rating - I expected this work to be an overview of french history it could not have been anything else as a one volume history. However I did expect the overview to give equal weighting to the different periods of french history. In the earlier part of the book whole dynasties of french kings could be covered in a page or two yet as one approached and then was within the 20th Century the pace slowed considerably and points covered in much more detail.

The most extreme example being in a book of 17 chapters the last 2 chapters were personal reflections by the author on how Sarkozy and modern france would face the future challenges that living in a modern world would bring.

If the various eras of French history had given been more equal weighting in the book, then with the quality of the author's writing this book would have merited 5 stars.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A remarkable feat of compression, 27 Nov 2011
By 
Ralph Blumenau (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
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).
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Educational, 28 July 2011
I read this book as I am (attempting) to learn the French language and felt knowing a bit of the history of France would be a good idea. I found this book to be very informative, covering about 2000 years of history. It was easy to read and introduced the historical figures not just with facts and figures but with a little about each of their personalities and describing why they acted as they did which made it all the more easier to digest.

I'm usually put off history books by the long lists of dates and descriptions of battles fought, but this book had more of a human touch and I certainly learned a lot of very interesting facts not just about France but about Europe in general and how the countries reacted together throughout the last 100 years or so.

There are many references to other books throughout so if you wanted to read in depth about any particular era or person it would be easy to find a suitable source. The fifteen chapters are divided well and the indexing is very good (I read the paperback version). I would recommend this book to anyone with even the slightest interest in France or in European history who wishes to learn more.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It really is brief, 3 Mar 2013
By 
Mr. Leonard F. Clark "Len CLark" (Liverpool, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This book zips through the history of France from Roman times (well, really, from the middle ages).

My only quibble is that it doesn't really cover the period before Napoleon very well. On the other hand, it covers the modern period fairly thoroughly. Consider it really as an introduction to the recent history of France and it comes out well.

I did find it readable and interesting.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great introduction., 25 Sep 2011
By 
J. Bevan - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Hitherto I knew very little of the history of France, except where it intersects with the history of Britain. I thoroughly enjoyed this introduction. The author clearly knows his subject very well, and presents it in an easy, avuncular, style that is both informative and interesting. No doubt there are more comprehensive books on the market, but if you want a brief history of how French history has shaped French culture and outlook you could hardly do better than this.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brief, authoritative and readable, 2 Sep 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: A Brief History of France (Brief Histories) (Kindle Edition)
The title of this book says it all. It moves along at a great pace and is therefore straightfoward and easy to read, but without missing the essential elements of French history. Not a tourist guide, but a fantastic insight into France and the French.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Value, 22 Aug 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Its concise easy read plain English potted history..if u want to gen up on France fast this was a good buy for the cheap price and fast delivery..what gets me tho is no matter what size book you order the delivery rate from non amazon suppliers is all the same at £2.80
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very brief history up to WWI, a good introduction to modern France, 11 Aug 2013
By 
JJA Kiefte "Joost Kiefte" (Tegelen, Nederland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
One reviewer dismissed this book out of hand (he didn't get past the first chapter) as 'for kids'. Had the double-barrelled gentleman, I use the term loosely, looked a little further he would have found the book to be quite a challenge for kids.
The first half of the book covers the years up to 1914 and serves by necesity as not more than an introduction. The most important events are highlighted, but not until Louis XIV does the pace of the narrative slow down. If this imparts the impression of the book being little more than a string of dry facts, I can reassure the prospective buyer. The only thing that is dry is the author's wit. As the book reaches revolutionary and post revolutionary France, there is also more room for the cultural bit that we saw advertised in the book's subtitle, although this is limited almost exclusively to literature, which is where sometimes Jenkins lost me. He obviously presupposes a knowledge of French writers that most people who buy this kind of book will most probably not posess. According to his publisher's website Jenkins was a reader in French at Sussex University and he has written books on André Malraux and François Mauriac. Perhaps this accounts for two errors in the field of painting, one minor and one fairly major. 'Still life' is pluralised wrongly into 'still lives', but more seriously Jenkins attributes the namegiving painting of the Impressionist movement ("Impression, Soleil Levant") to Auguste Renoir...
Jenkins ably avoids getting bogged down in the intricate and confusing political situation of thirties' and post WWII Fourth Republic France, and the concluding chapters give a lucid sketch of the Fifth Republic's image of itself and its place in the international political arena.
If you're after a book on France's ancient history, then this is clearly not for you, but if you want to understand how modern France has come about (and how, very generally speaking, this is rooted in its history), this book amply serves its purpose for the general reader.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Only search this product's reviews