This is a very nicely presented and copiously illustrated book. (It is also physically very heavy.) Translated from the original French the two authors cover almost all aspects of artistic life in Paris between the wars. Individual chapters cover the decorative arts, fashion, painting and sculpture, photography and cinema, writing, music, architecture and there are chapters on everyday life and the nightlife of the city. The translation is good and does not result in any meaningless sentences as occur in some other books in this Thames and Hudson series.
The very all-embracing nature of this book is, however, its downfall. The authors want to cram so much information into their chapters that any narrative is lost and the text often degenerates into a list or compendium of events. Because of this the book is probably best treated as a reference work to be dipped into to provide inspiration for further reading or research. Gerard Durozoi is an expert on the Surrealist Movement and it is perhaps for this reason that Surrealism and Dada receive more than adequate coverage, to the point of ennui, in a book that otherwise does little more than barely mention many artists or writers. You are often left feeling that you would like more depth and background to the key players and events and would happily forego the encyclopaedic nature of the text. Characterisation is absent. I found the chapter ‘City of Light’ on the Modern architectural movement and interior design the most satisfying.
Despite the critical comments noted above, this is a beautifully presented and lavishly illustrated book and is a good introduction to the subject matter reviewed. It is perhaps worth purchasing for these reasons alone.