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Seven Ages of Paris: Portrait of a City Paperback – 3 Oct 2003

4.3 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 568 pages
  • Publisher: Pan; Reprints edition (3 Oct. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330488643
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330488648
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 3.4 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 51,712 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Book Description

Acclaimed by the Guardian as 'an inspirational work of scholarship and love', this is a new history of one of the greatest cities in the world by one of the foremost historians of France.

About the Author

Alistair Horne is the author of many acclaimed books, including The Price of Glory, Small Earthquake in Chile and How Far From Austerlitz?, as well as the authorised two-volume biography of Harold Macmillan. In the June 2003 Birthday Honours List he received a knighthood for services to Franco-British relations.


Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
In the past few years we've had a massive biography of New York City ("Gotham") and several only slightly less massive biographies of London (by Peter Ackroyd, Stephen Inwood, etc.). Alistair Horne, an Englishman who has spent most of his life writing about France, rightly decided that it's about time that we gave equal time to the City Of Light. He has written a very good book. If you don't know much about France and the French, Mr. Horne's book covers so many different areas that it is sure to whet your appetite to learn more. Even if you're a longtime Francophile, the author has dug so deeply into his sources that you're bound to be delighted and/or surprised at many of the tidbits he's unearthed. For example, during the siege of Paris in the autumn of 1870, the Parisians were able to communicate with the rest of France by successfully sending out balloons. But the balloons were never able to make it back in to Paris.,And while many people know that the siege reduced Parisians to having to eat horses, dogs, cats, rats and even animals from the zoo...where else could you find out that it's estimated that during the siege the Parisians consumed 65,000 horses, 5,000 cats, 1,200 dogs...but only 300 rats! Depending on your interests (or the strength of your stomach) this is either fascinating or perhaps a bit TOO much information! Mr. Horne tries to let you sample various aspects of Parisian life. So, in each "Age" he tries to tell you what was going on in certain core areas: politics, architecture, relations between the sexes, culture (music, dance, theater, art, literature), etc.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It took me many weeks to finish this book; you can't really dip in and out but you do need to read it section by section.
Overall, a truly excellent work. I thought I knew Paris but this has expanded my knowledge ten fold.
There are a couple of reasons why this didn't get a full five star rating. The first is that if you are not a French speaker (or reader) there are many occasions where there are quotations or phrases in French that are not given translations, so if you are totally stumped you'd need to go and look them up. The second reason is that the book waned somewhat towards the end; the book goes up to 1969, and there's a distinct feel that the author is rather weary of the era and all that it contains. There are a few rather barbed comments that reveal the feeling that for the author, the real glory of Paris is not in such things as the Tour Montparnasse and the Pompidou centre. Some periods of history are written about with great verve and enjoyment but it's clear that after the Belle Epoque, for the author at least, it was downhill all the way.
This isn't an easy access travel guide, and if that's what you were seeking, you would be frustrated by the leisurely style and lack of instant soundbites. But if you are looking to understand Paris, her history and that of her country and of wider Europe, this is the perfect book.
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Format: Paperback
I have taken tour groups to Paris over 50 times in the last decade and a half. I thought I would update my information and found this book to give me information I found interesting and at times funny. Sadly, the book can be a bit jumbled at times, but I just skimmed through those parts.
I do like the link with British history, which of course is unavoidable.
I would have liked to have read a more flowing story, but that may just be personal choice.
Otherwise a book I would recommend this book to put Paris history into context with European and French history.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Alistair Horne is the bee's knees when it comes to French history, and this
is both informative and immensely readable.
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Format: Paperback
This is a wonderfully written history of Paris by a noted Francophile, one of whose previous books on the Franco Prussian war, siege and Commune I read and enjoyed several years ago. Full of colour and variety, it covers political and military history, architecture, culture and the arts, and gives a good feeling for the ebb and flow of life, at least in the latter parts. Coverage is fairly uneven, e.g. the first 1300 years occupy the same number of pages as the 20 years of the Napoleonic era; this is of course inevitable up to a point, but I would have welcomed a little more coverage of the pre-1500 period overall, and some may quibble over his choice of dates for the 7 ages (the first begins in 1180). This is a pleasure to read, but it could definitely have done with more detailed maps of the city at various stages and perhaps line drawings of buildings being described.
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Format: Paperback
I bought this book after a fantastic trip to Paris - I'd seen many of the tourist sites and wanted to make sense of the scraps of history I'd picked up. I chose this book based on the comments of other reviewers and the author's extensive publications about French history. (For good measure, I bought a copy of the author's "Friend or Foe: an Anglo-Saxon History of France" at the same time, on the assumption a book about London is not very helpful in understanding the history of England, still less the history of Britain.)
The Seven Ages divide the history of Paris between 1180 and 1969 and they are continuous in the sense that one `age' runs into another, so it's not as if he has picked (say) 1918-1939 as the representative age for the 20th century. However, this does mean that even at 480 pages long you don't get a lot of detail - I make that about 60 pages per century. "Very good," you might think. "I don't want a lot of detail but the problem is that if you are like me your interest is going to vary across the 800 years covered. My interest in mediaeval history is not huge but even this level of detail left me bewildered as the different personalities blurred before my eyes. However, for the periods I was interested in - primarily the times of Napoleon and the Second World War & its aftermath - the level of detail was not enough and I felt I would have got almost as much by reading Wikipedia and then following up with a quick Google search.
My other disappointment was with the way the material was related to Paris itself. I wasn't expecting a tourist guide book but I was expecting something a bit more specific to the city. I had expected a history of Paris set in the context of France, not the other way round.
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