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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 7 May 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Taking four families, from different social positions, Edward Rutherfurd weaves these family histories into the history of Paris and France. We encounter the noble de Cygnes, the bourgeois Blanchards, the lower class Gascons and the revolutionary Le Sourds. Their lives cross paths through the years in often unexpected ways and while "Paris" is an historical fiction novel, this is as much an epic story of families as it is about the history.

Rutherfurd is a remarkable writer in many ways. His output is consistently strong and "Paris" is no exception. He has developed an excellent formula for his books, based either on cities or in some cases countries, weaving personal stories to show how historical events impact on real lives. But if the term "formula" suggests some short cuts on the part of the writer, nothing could be further from the truth. Like all his books, Rutherfurd's historical research is thorough and exemplary and he manages to convey the spirit of the nation in his story and goes a long way to explaining some of the subtle complexities of French politics and culture, and in particular the socialist revolutionary spirit.

"Paris" though differs slightly in scope from some of his other books. His main focus is much more limited in time frame. Often he traces cities back to their very emergence but while his coverage ranges from 1261 to 1968, in the main, his focus is on the period from 1875 to 1940, and therefore spans the lifetime of people who saw the construction of the Eiffel Tower to the German occupation in World War Two. His approach is broadly chronological, at least in the main thread, with occasional trips to earlier years which also start chronologically but this is less the case later in the book and in particular is the highly effective leap back to 1794 and the French Revolution, just before the Second World War chapters which highlight the way that, for some, the resistance movement in Paris was seen as the conclusion of the great revolutionary movement.

One of the great strengths of Rutherfurd's writing is what he leaves out. That might sound an odd thing to say in a book spanning a wrist-challenging 752 pages (in fact in terms of Rutherfurd's normal output this is almost a short story for him!). He doesn't feel the need to explain what is happening to all of his four main families at each historical stage though and while the depth of historical research is evident, he has a wonderful knack of both simplifying events and throwing in little snippets of history that are unusual and memorable without ever seeming to include research just because he has done it. First and foremost for Rutherfurd comes the stories of the people - if the history helps to explain their motives and thinking then it goes in. If not, then it doesn't.

He also has the ability of a crime writer to set up different threads that you think "oh, they will meet up again" and some do, and many don't. This helps to make his characters seem highly believable and keeps you captivated. But this being France, expect affairs, mistresses, betrayal, unlikely friendships and plenty of intrigue. The writing is never dry and, despite the hefty page count, the story flies along and the World War Two ending is particularly poignant. It's a hugely entertaining book, as well as one that captures and explains something of the culture of a nation and a city.It is true it can be confusing at times to keep track of the various characters, but if you can cope with that, then it is absolutely superb.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I've never read any of Edward Rutherford's books but I enjoyed this very much. There is a real sense of history in the text, not necessarily in terms of big events which are, sometimes, missing - but in terms of the way the city of Paris itself both evolves and yet is ever-present as a character in its own right.

Unlike the other books which, I understand, follow a strictly chronological time-line, this has one strand which takes us from 1875-1940, then another which dips in and out of prior history at certain points: 1261, 1462, 1572 and so on. The epilogue is set in 1968.

I liked that Rutherford doesn't always choose the obvious moments - the French Revolution in 1789, the siege of Paris in 1870-71 - but allows them to happen in the background and have an impact on each present moment. At the same time, some key stories do have their place: the Dreyfus affair, the expulsion of the Jews, the arrest of the Templars, the building of the Eiffel Tower.

Inevitably in this kind of historical narrative people have unbelievable conversations in order to inform the reader. So there are quite a few exchanges like this: ` "Did you know that the original Louvre was just a small medieval fort guarding the river?" his father enquired casually. "Yes," Roland replied. "It was just outside the old city wall of King Philippe Auguste."'

But small narrative niggles and historical hindsight apart, this is a huge and hugely enjoyable book. Rutherford has marshalled his research very well to make it digestible, and also allows us to view events through sometimes unexpected eyes.

So whether you're an expert in French history or know little about it, this is an accessible and absorbing read. Recommended.
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on 26 November 2013
Really not one of his finest. In his early novels there was a straightforward progression of the chronology from the far distant past to some roughly contemporary point. By the time you'd read four or five the style was practically a cliche but it was an effective storytelling method. This one doesn't progress in that way, it opens in the late 19th century wanders around in that period for a while and then shoots back to medieval Paris and then back to the 19th c and repeat.....till the reader has lost the plot. Most of the focus is on the period from the 19th C onwards with a big chunk in WWII (which is the same Paris in WWII that any number of other authors have done much better. I wonder if the publishers forced him to add the other time line just to ensure that the St Bartholomew's Day massacre and the revolution were included...? I don't really understand why he has done this style change, Paris has a rich and fascinating history which would have ideally suited his original approach, which is narrative history with the characters being used to illuminate key events & periods. The characters are too thin & stereotypical to standalone; tart with the heart, aristo with attitude, hardworking artisan zzzz. The plots such as they are are equally thin and hackneyed. In its defence it rolls past the eyes as an undemanding read and the occasional interesting nugget of information just about kept me going through the 800 pages. Probably a good read whilst digesting a christmas dinner or whilst riding out a winter germ but otherwise I'd read his earlier stuff; Sarum, London, The Forest and leave this well alone.
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on 22 May 2013
I was at initially a wee bit disappointed when I looked at the "contents" page and saw that Paris doesn't go as far back in history as Edward Rutherfurd's historical novels usually do, and I did find the jumping back and forward a wee bit confusing at first. However I soon got over that and found myself completely engrossed. I loved the familiar format of following family lines down through the generation, getting to know their characteristics and family traits, finding your own favourites, and as ever he brings historical events to life His characters were as usual fascinating and the story-lines totally absorbing. His research and knowledge of the city are faultless; I know Paris fairly well and each of the more "recent" chapters was a real trip down memory lane - Champs Elysées, Bld Hausmann, Fontainebleau etc etc. I felt quite bereft when I reached the last page!
A beautiful book that I shall keep forever and read over and over again.
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on 8 August 2013
I have read all of Edward Rutherford's previous books and looked forward to reading Paris. I found the way the story jumped forward a backwards in time irritating and this spoiled the story for me.
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VINE VOICEon 1 June 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Subtitled "the epic novel of the city of lights", Paris follows four families throughout the history of Paris. The De Cygne family are nobility, though their status gradually erodes over the course of history, while the Le Sourds are a range of commoners. The other two families are bourgeois and workers, representing the different sectors of French society. Throughout the novel their relationships and statuses change with history right up until the 1960's.

Unlike the other novels I've read by Rutherfurd, Paris focuses on a particular segment of history more so than the others, following a few members of the families more closely from 1875. The books I'd read earlier - Sarum, Russka and London - had started in the past and moved up to the present, more or less.

I'm not really sure I liked the change, to be honest. I can kind of see why it was done, perhaps because the late nineteenth century and onwards is a bit better known, and because it allows Rutherfurd to focus more closely on specific characters for once, but those reasons are exactly why it doesn't work. I am much more interested in earlier history and Paris certainly doesn't lack for a fascinating past; what happened to the history before the 13th century? Just because Paris wasn't properly the capital of a France like the modern one we know until Philip Augustus doesn't mean that its history, even fictional history, isn't worth writing.

Secondly, Rutherfurd really doesn't excel at creating believable characters or writing deeply enough to make the story of them compelling. He's much more skilled when it comes to the epic big events, creating incidental characters whose only purpose really is to live through the cities' big moments. When half of the book is devoted to looking more closely at a few characters, this approach no longer works. I rolled my eyes at a lot of the writing here; characters' judgement of each other is incredibly shallow and unrealistic, for one thing, and things are always told and not shown. I really did not enjoy returning to the more modern strand because I had no interest in who Marie was actually going to marry or whether Luc was going to get his revenge on Louise. I felt that his previous books worked a lot better in this respect; I wanted more historical fiction, less little social dramas that didn't reflect anything actually about Paris.

It's not all bad; the chapter that had the St Bartholomew's Day massacre was actually particularly good because it gave the events a really human element through two children that suffer from the events, and reminded me of why I actually wanted to read the book in the first place. Unfortunately, most of it didn't live up to my expectations, making this one of the most disappointing books I've read yet this year.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I've only visited Paris three times and in very different circumstances - once as a 14 year old on a whistle-stop tour of Europe, then again as a university student when I was more interested in Pere Lachaise, Montparnasse and the Flea Markets and finally as a French teacher accompanying pupils on a trip which included Parc Asterix, Eurodisney and the Bateaux Mouches. I'd love to go back but, in the meantime, I can satisfy my wanderlust with Edward Rutherfurd's latest tome.

It's a bit of a monster at 752 pages but this is the norm for Rutherfurd's epic sagas of different geographical locations. This story revolves around 4 central families ; the aristocratic de Cygnes, the bourgeois Blanchards, the working class Gascons and the revolutionary/socialist Le Sourds. I gather that the author's usual `formula' is to relate epic stories spanning several centuries in a chronological fashion but Paris represents a break with this tradition as it begins in 1875 tending to stick with the events of late 19th century to mid 20th century but also returns to other centuries beginning with the 13th when Paris intially became France's first city. Even though there is a family tree, I found it useful to compile my own diagram detailing family relationships in order to avoid confusion.

I can't help admiring the author's skill in structuring such a complex novel. It's as if the characters move around a giant chess board with Rutherfurd as Grandmaster! Yes, there are major coincidences en route and a lot of suspension of disbelief required in certain sections but it really is a beautiful ode to the wonders of Paris and an excellent way to tread the streets of this beautiful city and trace its eventful history without leaving the comfort of your "fauteuil"! I know it's a weighty tome and some have recommended purchasing on Kindle to preserve one's wrists but, if you can `bear' it, I think this is a book best read the traditional way where you can flick to and fro, reminding yourself of previous events/centuries and consulting the family tree.

A highly recommended easy, engaging read which has made me fall in love with Paris all over again.
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on 27 August 2013
This is billed as an epic novel. Well, it should be. The ambitions are all there. The story is captivating - families across history, from different social classes, all linking over the centuries. And is there much to learn about history. And it is written in a simple one sentence style that is easy. Only that's the point. Is this a novel or a rather grand guidebook?

We go back and forth and no sooner are we involved with a character than we lose them. it just does not work.The novelist and editor surely noticed this? And perhaps that's why the characters lack any depth and we don't care about them. And there are just too many. Inevitably, it is the hackneyed old WW2 area that comes out best, but, you know, it has been done before, and good though it is, we shouldn't have a whole book to get through before we reach one bit of excitement.

I give this three stars because this is a novelist with the fill weight of publishing and marketing - and that demands something better. This isn't really an epic tale. It's a staccato romp through history. It's a lost opportunity.
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on 2 February 2015
Rutherford cleverly interweaves fictional historical tales of families placed in all social classes, spanning an enormous time range of about a thousand years. He thus brings alive the history (and geography) of Paris. As far as I can judge, most or all of what he writes is historically accurate and well-researched. And certainly, this is a very good way of getting history to stick in memory, by painting vivid word pictures rather than drily listing facts and data. There is nothing to fault in his colourful story-telling: the book can certainly be called well-written.

So why only three stars? Well, mostly the quality of the tales he weaves is about the quality of tales I used to make up on the spot for my children: highly contrived, stereotyped, not entirely convincing. But maybe I am being too critical? After all, he clearly intends to create prototypes, or stereotypes, characters who were exemplars of their time and social status.

In summary: this book certainly brings lots of Parisian history home to the reader. And it is an easy if long read, great for a long-distance flight or a post-operative stay in hospital. Expect great popular history, but not exactly great literature. In spite of wavering towards four stars, I think that ultimately, three will suffice.
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I reallt enjoyed this book on the whole. It took a bit of getting through it (it's big and looong) but it's mostly entertaining and the characters are interesting. I stopped and started a few times as it took me a while to really get into it. It wasn't a book I couldn't put down, but i enjoyed it and would recommend if (it was recommended to me)
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