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La Belle France

3.63 of 5 stars 3.63  ·  rating details  ·  188 ratings  ·  30 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,...more
Paperback, 512 pages
Published June 6th 2006 by Vintage (first published 2005)
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Nancy
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.
Billy
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...more
Anastasiya
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...more
Brian
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...more
Ellis
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...more
Dan
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
Bev
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.
Bridget
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
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.
Zelda
Apr 20, 2012 Zelda marked it as to-read
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?
Nadine
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
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.
Rick
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.
Elizabeth
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.
Joy
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.
Tripp
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.
Heather
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
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.
Jackie
Very informative of French History. Sometimes so concentrated that it is tiring to read a lot at one sitting.
Rose Paluch
Condense and good filler stories I hadn't yet read. It starts early middle ages and rolls to nearly the present.
Hadrian
Short novel-like history of France. Covers a lot, briefly. Be careful, there are some factual errors.
Situationist 95
Just Pure French History. Learning Without The Need for College. & Without The need for Loans & Debt.

-95
Steve
Good overview of French history from Roman times through near-present day.
James
Great introduction for someone looking for a quick history.
Thomas A Wiebe

Source: Wiebe Library.
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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...
The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916 Seven Ages of Paris A Savage War of Peace: Algeria, 1954-1962 To Lose a Battle: France 1940 The Fall of Paris: The Siege and the Commune 1870-71

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