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The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  16,792 ratings  ·  2,059 reviews
The Greater Journey is the enthralling, inspiring - and until now, untold - story of the adventurous American artists, writers, doctors, politicians, architects, and others of high aspiration who set off for Paris in the years between 1830 and 1900, ambitious to excel in their work.

After risking the hazardous journey across the Atlantic, these Americans embarked on a great
Hardcover, 558 pages
Published May 24th 2011 by Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group
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3.91  · 
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 ·  16,792 ratings  ·  2,059 reviews

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“Not all pioneers went west.”

Unlike the many books which focus on American authors who flocked to Paris during the first half of the twentieth century, eminent historian and Pulitzer Prize winning author David McCullough relates the stories of the many American luminaries who travelled to Paris from the 1830s through to the start of the twentieth century. According to McCullough these people didn't travel only for pleasure or making a “social splash”, but rather “They had other purposes—quite
Jun 01, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook, history
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
Nov 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book made me wish I could travel back in time to Paris in the 1830s. The collection of artists and writers there was remarkable.

In "The Greater Journey," David McCullough tells stories of a varied group of Americans who went to Paris in the 19th century, and then returned home with new ideas, new art, new writings and even new inventions. The group included James Fenimore Cooper, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Mark Twain, Henry James, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Harriet Beecher Stowe,
Jill Hutchinson
Mar 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is atypical of McCullough's others works which are usually concentrated on one person's life. This is a dual biography......that of Paris between 1839-1900 and of the Americans who visited/worked/studied and lived there.

Paris was a magnet for artists, writers, and scientists....the center of European life and knowledge and Americans came in droves. McCullough paints a delightful picture of a beautiful city which was vibrant and and totally different from anything found in the US. Life
Oct 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
I wasn't sure how much I would like this even though I know I like the way David McCullough and his team put together books. I was hesitant because the book focuses on many different individuals, all Americans residing in Paris from the late 1820s through 1900. Would I get adequate depth about each? The answer? Many individuals are mentioned and yet I was interested in so many because of the fascinating information provided. I did not get complete biographies of any, but the book does focus in m ...more
Jun 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: art, autographed
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
Randy Auxier
Aug 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
(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
Stephen Escalera
May 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 21, 2012 rated it liked it
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
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
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
A fine history, but unfortunately not up to McCullough's (extremely) high standards.

McCullough is an excellent biographer, and an excellent narrative historian. However, this book, trying to cover such a broad topic as Americans in Paris in the 19th century, he seems to almost flounder. Many of the chapters are excellent, and his usual skill shines here.

Unfortunately, some of the order and presentation of all this information seems erratic. There are lots of interesting narrative stories, and b
Clif Hostetler
Sep 23, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
Dec 05, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Joy D
Non-fiction about numerous Americans who lived in Paris during the period 1830-1900. It fits my definition of a 3-star reading experience: overall, I liked it but didn’t care for certain aspects. The author covers a lot of ground here– artists, musicians, sculptors, diplomats, authors, doctors, entertainers, and socialites. It reads like a series of short stories of interesting people.

What I liked a lot:
• It was well-written
• Gave some very interesting observations about the work of artists such
Jul 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
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
Jan 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
I had an coincidental experience as I came to the end of this book about Americans who lived in Paris during the 19th century. I was at 52% complete on my e-reader and thought it odd that I was only half way through the book, but abruptly, it seemed, the book ended.. Can't be - there must be a lot more Americans to come. But no, that was the end of the narrative - the rest was taken up with detailed page by page footnotes. It raised the question, though of why McCullough arbitrarily stopped at t ...more
Elizabeth S
Aug 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
McCullough's work is always excellent, though I would argue the author is at his best when he focuses on one person rather than a plethora of figures, which is the reason I deducted a star.

Just as its subtitle says, The Greater Journey recounts the stories of many famous Americans who went to Paris. Whether to learn, travel, absorb culture, or hone skills, all of these now-impressive voyagers have interesting tales of their own. McCullough breathes great life into each of these people, and also
May 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
“The Greater Journey” is a book that in less capable hands than David McCullough’s would have been deadly dull. However, in his hands it is a wonderful narrative history that manages to be about many things, and all at the same time.
This text is about the American artists, diplomats, writers, doctors, etc. who populated Paris France during the 19th century. Beginning with the early 1800s and concluding essentially at the dawn of the 1900s McCullough gives us a readable and very fascinating histo
Aug 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 15, 2015 rated it liked it
With a nod to Rachel's excellent review, this was the literary equivalent of a cup of cocoa (the chalky kind from a tin, without marshmallows) with your grandfather. It was perfectly pleasant and you will learn quite a few things about various American intellectuals and reformers who spent time in Paris during the 19th century, but the slow pace and overly detailed anecdotes are apt to make you nod off. Also, the lack of clear connections between the various characters (other than the fact that ...more
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
A new McCullough! Squee!
I very much enjoyed this look at Americans who journeyed to Paris in the 1900's to "broaden their horizons." I really enjoyed learning more about those whose names I recognized and learning about those whom I did not know. The audio was good and held my attention.

Some of the profiles are of those who went to study medicine, such as Oliver Wendell Holmes (father of Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.) and Elizabeth Blackwell (the first American woman physician). Many of the profiles
Sep 24, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Apr 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have to sit down with books about France/Paris (and history) in a certain frame of mind. Everyone wants to recommend these to me - and I do like reading them, just not a steady diet. McCullough is favorite writer. He tells a story - and then you realize you've learned something about a subject. In this case, the win was an overlay of American history that put this part of French history into context. The biggest surprise was the history of the Paris Commune. Victor Hugo gives a dramatized view ...more
Mark Jr.
Feb 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017, audio
Biography is the most interesting way to learn history. And some writers have a knack for unearthing those anecdotes which best make a biography. David McCullough is certainly one (Robert Caro is another).

It now seems obvious that a book about Americans visiting Paris in the 19th century could be fascinating and also edifying. But when I first picked up this book I wondered if McCullough would finally fail to interest me. He didn't. He got me right into the life and times of his chosen subjects.
Aug 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was an interesting account of various Americans who traveled to Paris during the mid to latter parts of the 19th century as it was the world's cultural and educational center. They came in large numbers to study art, literature, education, medicine, politics, etc. the notable Americans included such names as James Fenimore Cooper, Samuel FB Morse, Elizabeth Blackwell, Charles Sumner, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Mary Cassett, and John Singer Sargent among others.

It is an i
Oct 30, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: dnf
I really did feel like I was in Paris back then and the atmosphere was wonderful but the novel itself...

I wish he would've gone more in dept on the people themselves... We get a little info about them then its on to the next section then sometimes they appear in a section about someone else. It felt a little dry and confusing after awhile.

I don't mind lookin up different things from a book time to time, but not every other person in the book.

For me this was a dud, David McCullough is a wonderfu
Kelly Walter
Excellent writing; clear organization; fun to read; made history alive.
John Hood
Jul 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.
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David McCullough has twice received the Pulitzer Prize, for Truman and John Adams, and twice received the National Book Award, for The Path Between the Seas and Mornings on Horseback; His other widely praised books are 1776, Brave Companions, The Great Bridge, and The Johnstown Flood. He has been honored with the National Book Foundation Distinguished Contribution to American Letters Award, the Na ...more
“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.” 13 likes
“Vivez joyeux” was the old saying. “Live joyfully.” 5 likes
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