16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Excellent reading for experts and non-buffs alike,
By A Customer
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This review is from: Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution (Paperback)
It's fascinating to read the other reviews of Schama's books here on Amazon - to his detractors he's either too dry and so obsessed with minutiae, anecdotes and personalities that his work becomes difficult to read, or that his approach is too simplistic, too determined to appeal to the broadest possible audience and verging on the dumbed-down. For me the beauty of Schama's work is that he is always able to find exactly the right pitch between readable, enjoyable narrative and learned, impeccably-researched discourse. He avoids going too far in either direction, at any point, and never once looks in danger of falling into "for the general reader" narrative fluff without substance or insight, or lengthy dissertation dreariness on obtuse avenues of limited interest.
For me "Citizens" is a book that shows Schama at the absolute peak of his powers of both storytelling and questioning - it never once fails to fascinate, and never once feels even slightly condescending. If you've read a lot of studies of the French Revolution, there's still a huge amount in here to cast new light on that which you thought you knew, and to challenge long-held assumptions - and yet aside from the preface, it's not revisionist in tone at all. If you've never read anything about the Revolution before, this is also a good place to start - Schama's prose is as easy to read as ever, and the whole book is very similar in style and approach to "A History of Britain Volume II", with its rich character portraits adding to, rather than distracting from, the narrative explanation, and its complex and intricate matters unravelled and explained so simply that one wonders why they ever seemed complex and intricate in the first place. Outstanding stuff.