Sarah Finch's Reviews > Paris: The Biography of a City

Paris by Colin Jones
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's review
May 13, 12

Read from May 08 to 13, 2012

A good, solid tour through Parisian history, starting with Roman times and proceeding through the turn of this new century. Jones does an excellent job of navigating the tricky intersection between national and local politics that has made the city's history so complex, and particularly shines in his recounting of the time between Louis XIV and Napoleon Bonaparte. Much attention is justly paid to the architecture and the preservationist campaigns in Paris, particularly as it relates to Haussmann, but there is a disappointing lack of corresponding detail for the cultural side of the city, at least aside from Victor Hugo and Josephine Baker. He also barely mentions Catherine de Medici and does not give the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre the attention I expected it to receive. Another event that receives only glancing treatment is the deportation of thousands of Jews during World War II -- in fact, there is almost no mention of any Jews in the city's history at all up until the 1940s, which makes it all the more jarring when it makes a sudden appearance in the context of the Holocaust. Even the Dreyfus affair is told more through the lens of the Christians who fell into Dreyfusard and anti-Dreyfusard camps than on the man whose life was actually hanging in the balance. Overall, an intelligent but only fitfully engaging rendering of the history of one of my favorite places in the world.

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05/08/2012 page 18
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