The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris
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The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  10,893 ratings  ·  1,475 reviews
The #1 bestseller that tells the remarkable story of the generations of American artists, writers, and doctors who traveled to Paris, the intellectual, scientific, and artistic capital of the western world, fell in love with the city and its people, and changed America through what they learned, told by America’s master historian, David McCullough.

Not all pioneer...more
ebook, 576 pages
Published May 24th 2011 by Simon & Schuster (first published May 24th 2010)
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Dear Goodreads Community:

This is not easy for me to do and I am sorry to have to do this in this forum. I realize it is a bit cowardly and beg your understanding but you need to know it is not you, it’s me—well, maybe it is you.

Yes, over the last four years we’ve had some good times and I will cherish those books you’ve recommended through your insightful reviews and ratings. Those were wonderful times and I trusted you then. However, over the past year or so, it seems more and more that you’ve...more
Randy Auxier
(This review appeared in the Carbondale Nightlife, February 28-March 6, 2013, p. 14.)

David McCullough became a household name in the most unlikely way. He wrote a biography of John Adams, who was tedious on his best day. Somehow the little guy came to life in McCullough’s prose. But there’s a back story. McCullough’s great secret? He’s not a history professor; he’s a writer. He has nothing beyond a Bachelor’s degree, and that’s in literature (albeit from Yale, where he studied with Thornton Wild...more
We went to see McCullough 'launch' this latest offering. He's 78 now but still looks and sounds like God. (With apologies to Morgan Freeman and Alanis Morissette, who some people also think look like God). He spoke without a note for over an hour with only a rare misspeak, telling the wonderful stories that he unearthed about 19th Century Americans in Paris.

Context: I was always a reader, but McCullough's Path Between the Seas is one of the handful of books that turned me into an addict. And, I...more
Clif Hostetler
This is the story of Americans who traveled to Paris during the seven final decades of the 19th century. It's a history of the young years of individuals who ended up being famous and important Americans in their later mature years. Generally speaking, many of them were single, affluent individuals (mostly men) in their 20's intent on learning the artistic, scientific, and medical skills of the French who were perceived to be leaders in these fields.

I too spent some time traveling in Europe when...more
This was the first book I read after returning from a trip to France, and it was a perfect choice. Not only did I enjoy revisiting various Parisian sites in my mind’s eye, I was also fascinated to see the city through the eyes of other Americans. Nineteenth century Americans at that.

Told in McCullough’s engaging style, this book explores the voyages of various influential Americans to Paris between the 1830s and 1900. I was struck by the unique and changing relationship between the two countrie...more
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
A new McCullough! Squee!
I can see how, in all the wild Sturm und Drang of this modern world, you just might get in the mood for a couple of peaceful evenings in the parlor listening to a softly ticking clock and a mild, grandfatherly-type person amble gently through his stock of anecdotes. And if you happen to like your anecdotes very gentle and discursive indeed, and you’ve a yen to untangle bits about some pretty interesting Americans in Paris between 1830 and 1900 from the anecdote skein, then this is the book for y...more
Stephen Escalera
Ever since I picked up John Adams, I have been an avid fan of David McCullough. His biography of Harry Truman is perhaps the best one I’ve ever read. McCullough has a knack for taking people or things that perhaps have escaped the popular limelight (such as the Panama Canal or the Brooklyn Bridge) and writes a completely captivating history of them. You do not simply read a McCullough book, you experience it.

When I first heard that McCullough was penning a new work focusing on the impact that Pa...more
Feb 27, 2014 Paul rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Paul by: Jacques & Amanda
This is the second David McCullough work that I’ve read and I must admit I’ve had the same basic reaction to both - extremely well researched, highly informative, wonderfully interesting. Yet this journey was a bit of a slog – not a book to be run through in a few days like some light mystery.

This work deals with Americans who traveled to Paris during the 19th Century and the effect that “The City of Light” had on their careers, their insights, their accumulation of knowledge. From medical peop...more
I LOVE David McCullough; as a matter of fact, I ran out, bought this book, and read it just because it had his name on it. However, The Greater Journey is not John Adams, Truman, or Mornings on Horseback. While McCullough excels at writing investigating the life of a man facing extraordinary circumstances (the topic of all three above books listed), he falters at writing about many men and women being influenced by Paris. The first third of the book is choppy, confusing, and riddled with short p...more
Apr 20, 2011 Robin marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
How could I NOT plan to read this book? Love McCullough's writing, love history, love Paris!
I read 200 pages, then the last chapter and the epilogue. Although any given page was well-written and interesting, I kept waiting for some pay-off of synthesis explaining the point of McCullough's endless lists of loosely connected unimportant events. Do I really need to know about the sordid details of the love life of Augustus Saint-Gaudens? The historian is maybe supposed to be "objective" but the choice of stories and details is a subjective editorial decision and it would have helped to ma...more
Magnifique! I should have known--McCullough is one of my favorite history writers, and he's writing about nineteenth-century Paris, one of my favorite places to read/think/dream about. This was even better than I thought it'd be. When I was young I always wanted to go to Paris--but not Francois Mitterand's Paris. No, I wanted Degas' Paris, Balzac's Paris, Toulouse-Lautrec's Paris. Well, this was an extended visit to that same Paris but through fresh eyes. Much of what was in this book I knew lit...more
While the book made enjoyable reading and I learned a lot, the theme of Americans in Paris over decades wasn't strong enough to hold the book together very tightly. Our discussion group agreed that the section on the medical students is the strongest, since it covers several people who formed a cohesive community and paints a vivid picture of the state of medical science before antibiotics and anesthesia. The section about the diplomat Elihu Washburne also holds together well since it coalesces...more
May 24, 2011 Gail marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Because in case we haven't established here, I'm a sucker for any story that involves Americans in Paris.

I really enjoyed this book about Americans who traveled to Paris between 1830 and 1900 to live and learn/hone their craft. It focuses mainly on artists and people studying medicine and it portrays the great influence that their experiences and studies had on the development of culture in America in the 1800's. I loved learning more about people whose names are familiar but about whom I had only a cursory understanding - Samuel Morse, James Fenimore Cooper, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Augustus St. Gau...more
McCullough, David. THE GREATER JOURNEY: Americans in Paris. (2011). ****.
McCullough, an eminent historian with a gift for writing popular histories, has here taken a look at Paris as a focal point in the lives of gifted, or soon-to-be-gifted Americans who travelled there in the 19th century to experience what the city would offer that would provide additional inspiration to their careers. He has mostly concentrated on the periods of about two decades each on each side of our American Civil War....more
Bob Pearson
If you wanted to escape into a world of enchantment for Americans in the 19th century in Paris, this is your book. McCullough is already a favorite of mine, and this book just reconfirms my admiration for him. Yes, the 19th century - like most centuries - in reality wasn't all that great, but McCullough invites you to put on the rose-colored spectacles and walk with intelligent, artistic, enthusiastic young American women and men through the transformations in their lives that came from living i...more
What a delight! A thoroughly enjoyable read, and an introduction to the 19th century, about which I recently realized I understand nothing beyond the Civil War.

Everyone’s here. You'll read how Charles Sumner, the great abolitionist, found moral enlightenment in a chance encounter at a Paris lecture; about the beginnings of American medicine in Parisian classrooms; all the great American painters; a succession of French kings and dictators; even Mark Twain makes a cameo appearance. Along the way...more
Listened to the audio version with the print as back up (and I was glad I had immediate access to the many referenced works of art). Edward Herrman does a wonderful job with the reading. I simply adored the chapters about changes in medicine and the advantages of going to Paris for training. The numerous chapters on artists bogged down a bit for me; yes I understand the St. Gaudens process of creating the Farragut statue was painstaking, but it could have been edited a bit.

I think one measure of...more
Bound: Paris in Its Spring
Time-Traveling with Some Exemplary Americans
SunPost Weekly July 14, 2011 | John Hood

Returning home from Paris, no matter where home happens to be, is never an easy thing. It’s especially difficult to do after a hundred year trip. So it was with some discomfort — and deep reluctance — that, after more than a century away, I came back to Miami last week. Yes, it was the same hometown that I’d left. But it wasn’t Paris, of the 19th century or otherwise....more
I am a great fan of David McCullough and have all of his books. This book is different from any of his others. While reading the book I felt as though I was sitting in a corner of his writing shed, listening to him talk about all the people who spent time in Paris during a certain time period. The book had the feel of an elderly gentleman reminiscing about times passed. Names and ideas flew by.

I had to read the book with a computer handy. He describes painters and their paintings, and there are...more
Wayne McCoy
When I initially read the synopsis for this book, I wasn't sure if I would like it. Sure, I love David McCullough's writing, but the subject seemed to lack a certain cohesion in the descriptions I was reading. Americans travelling to Paris in the years from 1830 to 1900. It seemed a bit vague.

I needn't have worried. McCullough pulls together an array of interesting individuals who thread their way through the book. The cohesion is the city itself, with it's art, culture, revolutions, scandals, w...more
The book covered Americans in mostly the nineteenth century who found their way to Paris to study art, medicine, science, or just to escape the relatively higher cost of living in the US. A number of people were introduced, traced a bit, then dropped, and maybe reintroduced when they returned to Paris. It was difficult at times to keep track of all the players. However, it filled in a lot of gaps about such people as Samuel F.B.Morse (a long struggling artist!), John Singer Sargent, Mary Cassatt...more
So far, this might be one of my favorite works by McCullough. I can see constructing a graduate level course around it, involving the history and works discussed in the book. I feel that McCullough is at his best when he is looking at individual people (as evidenced by the success of Truman, John Adams, and Mornings on Horseback). I'm about 1/4 of the way through, so we'll see if my opinion changes. I doubt it.

Update (7/11/11): Done! I loved this book. Paris is such a magical location, so it was...more
When I first read the title of this book I thought it was about Americans in Paris after WWI. In fact it was about people from the US, some well-known others not yet famous who went to Paris between 1830 & 1900. They did not go there to party but to become better in their chosen craft. They were writers, artists, musicians, politicians, physicians! Ihave read David McCullough's books & have enjoyed them. I find biography & history interesting & informative. If you enjoy reading h...more
I'd probably rate this book a 4.5 rating. This book tells the story of the ex-patriot community in Paris from 1830-1900. In the process, it also gives a pretty good picture of Parisian history, of the Louvre and its aspiring artists, of the medical community and its practices, even a bit of its political history with the Second Empire and Napoleon III. Betcha didn't know that the Empress was smuggled out of France safely by an American! There are lots of interesting tidbits of well-known people-...more
Wonderful subject, great disappointment. For info,
I give it 3-stars. I knew little about the Paris Commune
or that Harriet Beecher Stowe visited Paris. The writing
feels like it was a team-effort. It's pedestrian. GRs
"Grumpus" (review) is on-the-mark. Sometimes I think many
GR members - who had orgazsies - are pretty stoopit.
Bet "Grumpus" agrees.
If I wasn't already married to the most wonderful man in the universe, David would be my second choice! This is a wonderful piece of non-fiction, peopled with fascinating characters and tidbits of French and American history. I gazed at Sargent's masterpiece The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit on a recent visit to the MFA with a new appreciation!
T.L. Williams
McCullough delivers a masterful treatment of this period, when American intellectuals of every stripe were flocking to "The Continent" where they were schooled in all that Paris, notably, had to offer. I found this tome less readable than McCullough's other works, i.e. Truman, John Adams, The Path between The Seas. Of these I am a huge fan. Although he follows the exploits of numerous notable expats as they experience the joys and travails of being an American abroad in the nineteenth century, I...more
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Huntsville-Madiso...: Staff Pick - The Greater Journey 2 10 Nov 14, 2012 07:09PM  
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David Gaub McCullough is an American author, narrator, historian, and lecturer. He is a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States' highest civilian award.

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, McCullough earned a degree in English literature from Yale University. His first book was The Johnstown Flood (1968); a...more
More about David McCullough...
John Adams 1776 Truman Mornings on Horseback The Johnstown Flood

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“George P. A. Healy; "I knew no one in France, I was utterly ignorant of the language, I did not know what I should do when once there; but I was not yet one-and-twenty, and I had a great stock of courage, of inexperience—which is sometimes a great help—and a strong desire to be my very best.” 8 likes
“The thought of going abroad makes my heart Leap," (Charles) Sumner wrote. "I feel, when I commune with myself about it, as when dwelling on the countenance and voice of a lovely girl. I am in love with Europa.” 2 likes
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