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on 5 December 2014
Excellent.
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on 8 September 2016
Arrived as promised
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on 21 August 2004
Citizens is a truly wonderful example of narrative historical writing - a "tremendous performance", to borrow a favourite expression of Simon Schama. The author prefers a more old-fashioned interpretation of the French revolution, which presents the revolution as a drama and focuses on the characters that determine the unravelling of the plot. This choice provides the book with the memorable stories, such as the royal family's comically feckless flight from Paris in 1791, that make it such a delightful read. It is a liberating experience to find a general historical survey that does away with the conventional, stultifying analytical distinctions between economic, social and political factors. Instead, the reader can interact directly - as well as chronologically, which makes it easy to dip in and out of - with the actors and the events without having to navigate around tedious discussions of causal significance or complex arguments with other historians.
But it is the skill with which Schama recounts events like the fall of the Bastille that makes this book unique and easily the most enjoyable modern history of the revolution in English. The embellishing vocabulary (readers are advised to have a dictionary to hand), the recurring motifs (the revolutionary obsession with heads, whether on pikes or as busts) and the vivid build-up of tension are the true strengths of this so-called chronicle. It is perfect for the novice reader and the enlightened amateur alike. Citizens demands re-reading for the richness of its description to be fully appreciated, especially its masterful reconstruction of the fascinating and sometimes disturbing culture of the old regime, which is probably the most accessible that exists. The only disappointment is that it ends with Thermidor, in 1794. After 800 pages, one is still hoping for more, which is the highest recommendation possible for this genre of historical writing.
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on 22 February 2016
Ok
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on 21 July 1999
This is essential reading for anyone interested in France, history and the Enlightenment, - exactly how much light was brought to mankind by the cast behind the French Revolution of 1789? And,conversely, how dark was the ancien régime really? All the answers in this immensely readable book. If you can only read one book about the crucial moment of European history, this is the one.
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on 22 September 2013
This is a curious book as it doesn't know if its a novel or a history textbook. This is not necessarily an issue except that there can be an uneasy trade-off between trying to explain the Revolution versus trying to provide an account of the Revolution as events unfolded. This book probably is better at achieving the latter and given that it would probably not suit the purpose of being a historical primer on the Revolution. There are lengthy passages devoted to the then popular aristocratic pastime of ballooning, or to the lewd rumors circulating about Parisian high society but there might also be dry lengthy accounts of political machinations. It is undoubtedly incredibly well-researched and entertaining to read but will not suit a reader who only has high-school knowledge on the subject.
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on 6 January 2016
A history of the French Revolution for people who already know all about it. Schama reels off dozens and dozens of names and events at such a rate that unless you are already familiar with 18th century France it is very difficult to keep track. His narrative style also implies a far more detailed knowledge of the personalities and motivations of the people involved than could possibly be gleaned from the archival record. Although he more or less admits to this in the preface, it lends the whole work an air of fiction and it's too focussed on the characteristics of the players at the expense of a pacey account of events. I must admit I gave up on it fairly quickly. I'm looking for a book from which to learn about the events of the French Revolution - this isn't the one for me.
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on 21 March 2013
Good. No problems in placing the order or receiving the product at home. Good product as well. I recommend it.
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on 19 June 2012
Some additions to my understanding - the ancien regime was more innovative than stagnant, Beaumarchais looks interesting - but overall it reduced and fogged my vision of the revolution in the swirl of personalities. Crucial developments are lost amidst dramatic episodes and vignettish digressions.

I would take the advice of others about better books, especially to start with.

BTW Dickens Tale of Two Cities which got me re-interested in FR is a cracking read.
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on 23 August 2017
Awful, awful book. In studying the French Revolution for a university module, I thought this would be a good choice.
However, it comes across as extremely pompous, to the point that it is just not an enjoyable - or enlightening - read. If you do not have a basic knowledge of the revolution, so many inconsequential names and random French words are thrown at you, things rapidly deteriorate into a confusing mess.
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