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La Belle France

3.60  ·  Rating Details  ·  234 Ratings  ·  35 Reviews
La Belle France is a sweeping, grand narrative written with all the verve, erudition, and vividness that are the hallmarks of the acclaimed British historian Alistair Horne. It recounts the hugely absorbing story of the country that has contributed to the world so much talent, style, and political innovation.

Beginning with Julius Caesar’s division of Gaul into three parts,
ebook, 512 pages
Published December 18th 2007 by Vintage (first published 2005)
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Sep 20, 2010 Nancy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An overview of French history in very readable prose. You will no doubt find a period you'd like to explore more deeply, but for a starter or a refresher course, this is a decent beginning.
Lauren Albert
I had four main problems with the book:
1. He jumps back and forth chronologically in a very confusing way. One minute, a king's mother is dead and the next minute, she's advising him.
2. There doesn't seem to be any linking between the fair number of pictures and the text. He never refers to them and they don't seem to follow the narrative.
3. World War II era in 30 pages--I realize it's necessary in such a short book but...
4. Name dropping. Thankfully, he can't do this for most of the book since,
Nov 11, 2011 Brian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
The title of this book explains it all. Despite being over 400 pages, this is a short history of France from the Roman Empire to 1996. Horne does not dwell a great length on any specific part of French history. Some kings were only described in one paragraph!

I had studied French for eight years. I've been to France twice, but I knew very little about French history other than Louis XIV, the French Revolution, and Charles de Gaulle, etc. I liked how Horne included the cultural history. Art, drama
It's a fairly interesting broad sweep of French history, from a moderatly conservative perspective. The author seems a bit unfair in his evaluation of the 1789 Revolution and the Paris Commune, and a bit two in bed with de Gaulle and Napoleon.

His writing style is a bit cumbersome at times, as he seems to try to force every little though and comment into a single and overly complex sentence. He also has a tendency to jump around in chronology that one who is not already familiar with the subject
Susan Abernethy
Apr 04, 2016 Susan Abernethy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Link to my review of this book:
Wm. Powell
Oct 18, 2015 Wm. Powell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A terrific shortish history of France. Reads like a novel, and a good one at that.
May 11, 2013 Billy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good introductory history of France for someone who is more interested in getting names and dates rather any analysis. Despite Horne being an arch-Francophile, he pulls no punches in detailing the mess that France has been, though he tends to gush over French bureaucrats, artists and politicians with lavish use of adjectives such as "brilliant" and "outstanding." (Sorry, Jerry Lewis is not mentioned.)

As several reviewers have noted, the initial history is quite thin, but then again so is the h
Liked the book overall. Gives relatively brief (450 pages long) introduction into french history. Though there are few buts....
First, the book is filled with quotes in french without translation anywhere (I guess author assumes if you are interested in french history you know french). It adds nice flavour of immersing into the culture, but at the same time makes it difficult to get the point.
Second, personally I didn't quite liked his anti-russian/anti-soviet attitude expressed via remarks and
Feb 09, 2016 Rafael rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a solid, generalist history of France. Written in a breezy style, it does a good job of introducing readers to French history without bogging them down in detail. There's better, more comprehensive histories out there, but in a pinch, this will do nicely.
May 05, 2009 Ellis rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: readforschool
Read for my class: Paris and the Art of Urban Life

A basic overview of the history of France by a guy who I'm sure loves to hear himself speak. His use of flowery language seems strange for a history book. At times, it was a nice read, but a lot of the time, it was tiresome and I would have rather read simple history. The most aggravating part of the book was that he is a historian who frequently used the wrong form of the word capital/capitol. Quick lesson: capital refers to the head. So, you us
Jun 24, 2011 Dan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A brisk survey of French history from the Romans to the late 1990s. I read it to get an overview before visiting there this year, and it served that purpose well. The early chapters are little more than a parade of kings, but starting in the late Middle Ages it gets much better - more details, more variety (including social & cultural history along with the politics), amusing anecdotes, and quirky opinions from this crotchety, anglocentric francophile who has spent his long career gazing at ...more
Nov 09, 2010 Bev rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent read, and I learned lots from this one. My only disappointment is that Horne glossed over many of the events and characters of French history that I would have liked more information on. I suspect that these are subjects treated in more depth in the UK schools, but my knowledge of French history is sorely lacking and I felt like I missed out on some of the material when a person or event was alluded to without further explanation.
Jan 09, 2008 Bridget rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It took me like 5 months to read this 400 page boook. For someone that read "Harry Potter" in its entirety in four weeks this is a little embarassing, I know. But this book covers like 2,000 years of history so it's pretty dense. But dense in an entertaining way! it was kind of like reading the transcript of a kooky British history professor telling anecdotes. And i really felt like I learned a lot about France.
Constance Wallace
Dec 08, 2011 Constance Wallace rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a French Historian, Alistair Horne's book is a very useful tool, when research a board narrative of France and her history. From Julius Caesar's division of Gaul to the 20th century, the reader is given a precise accounting of the nation. This was a required reading for a History Class, but I kept the book to use for future reference, as it was written nicely.
Apr 20, 2012 Zelda marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Not a word. Not. A. Word.

I have to read this for a class on the history of France. Not a word about that either. I am curious to see how the Franks devolved into a nation of "cheese-eating surrender monkeys". Besides, not everything about France is prime for ridicule. Take culottes for instance. Pants that make your legs look enormous. Who wouldn't want that?
Sep 16, 2010 Nadine rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: french-history
What a disappointment! My first book about general French History and I pick one with a horrible writing. This author assumes you are familiar with French history, glosses over some important events, has the annoying habit of comparing historical events to future events and totally ignores 1995-2004.
Sue Pit
Mar 23, 2009 Sue Pit rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Very interesting over view of French history by Alistair Horne. It not only covers its wars and governance issues, but also of the cultural/social aspects ranging from art, literature, general attitudes and dress and opines thereof as to the respective particular genesis of certain transitions.
Feb 07, 2010 Rick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
good concise history. I would have preferred more detail on the early years. There is hardly any depth explored until Henry IV, and also the Sun King. However, the story pulls you along. This is a fine summary that can be picked up and read just for the periods you are interested in.
Dec 08, 2009 Elizabeth rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Breezy hand-waving survey of French history. The author tilts right (oh, how he hates the rabble) and is distinctly sexist. A few glaring errors (U.S. presidential elections in 1970?) were a bit disquieting too. But handy as a way of familiarizing myself with names, places and dates.
Sep 22, 2010 Joy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
Not well-written. It's back and forth style made it difficlut to follow what was, essentially, a chronology of French history from the 800's through modern day. I'm glad I finished the book but would be hard-pressed to recommend it.
Okay I didn't finish this one either. This guy's voice can be funny, but can also be wearing after awhile. I think this might become my super classy bathroom book and I'll let you guys know when I really finish it.
Jan 23, 2012 Tripp rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was perfectly suitable for me, as I have almost no background in French history and wanted a bit more. I got a nice amount. It is a survey and only skips above the top of the story, but at least I got that much.
A very good overview of French history, though I felt it was more a history of Paris than of greater France. Nevertheless, for those looking for a good introduction to the country, this isn't bad.
Sara J.
Interesting but a cursory overview of French history. Without a proper foundation in the subject, readers may not realize the importance of certain events and people.
Ken Elser
Jun 15, 2008 Ken Elser rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating look at French history, most interesting due to the direct narrative the author details between the middle ages straight through Chirac...
Kevin Leung
If you want to learn about French history, this is a solid read. As you might expect, it's long, but the author has a bit of spunk that gives it some life.
Oct 09, 2008 Jackie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very informative of French History. Sometimes so concentrated that it is tiring to read a lot at one sitting.
Rose Paluch
May 11, 2015 Rose Paluch rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Condense and good filler stories I hadn't yet read. It starts early middle ages and rolls to nearly the present.
Short novel-like history of France. Covers a lot, briefly. Be careful, there are some factual errors.
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Alternate title? 1 9 Sep 18, 2007 07:21AM  
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Alistair Horne is a preeminent historian, journalist and Oxford fellow who has written seventeen books, many of them on the military history of France.He has won the following awards: Hawthornden Prize, 1963, for The Price of Glory; Yorkshire Post Book of the Year Prize and Wolfson Literary Award, both 1978, both for A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962; French Légion d'Honneur, 1993, for work ...more
More about Alistair Horne...

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