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A massively factual survey,
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This review is from: Paris: Biography of a City (Paperback)
I'm not a historian: I can only comment on this book as a general reader.
I was disappointed by what seemed to me the almost complete suppression of historical imagination. Part of my reason for buying the book was wanting to know what living in Paris felt like to real individual people in different periods. There's very little of that. Especially in the later chapters, there are plenty of snippety references to things said in novels or poems or presented in paintings or films, but none of a kind to suggest that Jones had much interest in getting into the mindset of the artists in question so as to see things from their point of view, and there's little or none of the testimony from personal documents and letters that could have told us so much.
That said, Paris: Biography of a City has a hugely interesting story to tell. It marshals a vast array of facts clearly and efficiently in a brisk, workmanlike prose that may not offer much interest in itself but never clogs the narrative either. It has all the virtues of a good textbook on a grand scale. In terms of bringing the past to life it seemed to me altogether inferior to John Hale's The Civilization of Europe in the Renaissance, but it was well worth reading and is a book I envisage going back to for reference purposes.