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"The Fall of Paris" by Alistair Horne
on 23 September 2003
Funnily enough, although not French, Horne's account of the 1870/71 siege of Paris and the subsequent Paris Commune is far more readable than numerous books I have read on the subject by French authors, including the authoratitive work by Lissagaray.
Although essentially a history book, which focuses more on the siege than the Commune, the author manages to combine a very readable narrative style with concrete fact.
One has the impression of reading a good story coupled with an accurate description of an historical episode.In fact, although I knew "what happened in the end", this was the first book on that period that I've actually managed to finish. Most books are so cluttered with names and other details, that one soon becomes bogged down.
Whether it be his descriptions of colourful characters such as the revolutionary doctor Gustave Flourens, the "Hero of Belleville" (whose tomb can still be visited today in Paris's Pere Lachaise cemetary), who once stormed into a meeting of the provisional government, jumped up on the table scraping his stirrups into the wood and kicking papers into the frightened ministers' faces or the anecdotes of the siege when starving Parisians were forced to eat the animals in the zoo (including the elephant), Horne's book is so well written that it is in fact very difficult to put down.
In short, it is a combination of a good novel and genuine historical fact. Even readers unfamiliar or formerly not interested in the period will find it captivating!