A humiliating military defeat by Bismarck's Germany, a brutal siege, and a bloody uprising Paris in 1871 was a shambles, and the question loomed, "Could this extraordinary city even survive?" Mary McAuliffe takes the reader back to these perilous years following the abrupt collapse of the Second Empire and France's uncertain venture into the Third Republic.
By 1900, Paris had recovered and the Belle Epoque was in full flower, but the decades between were difficult, marked by struggles between republicans and monarchists, the Republic and the Church, and an ongoing economic malaise, darkened by a rising tide of virulent anti-Semitism.
Yet these same years also witnessed an extraordinary blossoming, in art, literature, poetry, and music, with the Parisian cultural scene dramatically upended by revolutionaries such as Monet, Zola, Rodin, and Debussy, even while Gustave Eiffel was challenging architectural tradition with his iconic tower. Through the eyes of these pioneers and others, including Sarah Bernhardt, Georges Clemenceau, Marie Curie, and Cesar Ritz, we witness their struggles with the forces of tradition during the final years of a century hurtling towards its close. Through rich illustrations and evocative narrative, McAuliffe brings this vibrant and seminal era to life."
Mary McAuliffe holds a PhD in history from the University of Maryland, has taught at several universities, and lectured at the Smithsonian Institution. She has traveled extensively in France, and for many years she was a regular contributor to Paris Notes. Her books include Dawn of the Belle Epoque, Twilight of the Belle Epoque, When Paris Sizzled, Paris on the Brink, Clash of Crowns, and Paris Discovered. She lives in New York City with her husband.
Dawn of the Belle Epoque Twilight of the Belle Epoque When Paris Sizzled Paris on the Brink Clash of Crowns Paris Discovered
First, let me say that I agree with the negative reviews from other readers, yet I loved it anyway. I do think that the author achieved an "Impressionistic effect" by telling the history of Paris from 1871 through 1900 in chronological order, with each chapter recounted in a smattering of many anecdotes in the lives of the prominent artists, writers and musicians who shaped the era. I can understand how those unfamiliar with the historical cast of characters would find this confusing, but those who are already familiar with Sarah Bernhardt, Emile Zola, Claude Monet, Claude Debussy etc. will have no trouble keeping track of who is who. Moreover, this organization of the book makes it much easier to get a "snapshot" of the mood of what was going on in Paris in a given year than organizing the book with entire chapters devoted to each historical figure, as some reviewers have suggested. After all, this is the way we come to know the politicians and celebrities of our own time -- not by reading their complete biographies ahead of time, but one headline and one news story at a time, interspersed with other news stories and headlines and weather reports and such. If the author's goal was to transport us to the Dawn of the Belle Epoche and enable us to experience the era through the eyes of those who lived through it, she has succeeded. I especially enjoyed the perspectives from Berthe Morisot's daughter and the excellent account of the connection between the Dreyfus Affair and the art world.
Dawn of the Belle Époque has a cast of hundreds, but because many of them are well known, including Zola, Monet, Marie Curie, Gustave Eiffel, Debussy, and Sarah Bernhardt, it’s not hard to keep track of them. Details of individual lives are reported, I learned for instance that Degas was petulant, conservative and stubborn, but the book also has a broader scope. Almost every year from 1870 to 1900 has its own chapter, covering the politics, personalities, mood and culture of Paris as it moved toward the new century.
While some aspects of the Belle Époque were not so belle/beautiful, notably the Dreyfus affair, it’s a fascinating era. A hundred years after the French Revolution, France was still deeply divided. Republican heirs of the revolution clashed with anarchists, and they both brawled, sometimes literally, with citizens who wanted a powerful Catholic Church and a return to rule by the monarchy or an heir of Napoleon. The back of the book has sources notes and a bibliography.
The Belle Epoque, an age from roughly the end of the Franco-Prussian War in 1871 to the onset of WWI in 1914. McAuliffe examines the earliest phase of the period, up to the turn of the century. As the term indicates, this was an era of wonderful cultural flowering. In literature, giants like Zola and Hugo were active. The list of painters and sculptors who emerged seems endless, including Toulouse-Lautrec, Manet, Monet, and Rodin.
"To tell this incredibly complicated story, Ms. McAuliffe uses an interesting technique, one that might be identified more with fiction than nonfiction. Arranged chronologically into 28 chapters year by year from 1871 to 1900, the book consists of short scene-like vignettes featuring key historical figures and their actions during the year in question. Thus Dawn of the Belle Epoque reads more like a novel than an academic history."
McAuliffe does not ignore the seamy underside of this glittering picture. She pays ample attention to the political turmoil, beginning with the horrors of the Paris Commune and ending with the disgrace of the Dreyfus Affair, which virtually dominated French political discourse for years. This is an excellent and honest portrayal of an exciting and vital era in European history.
Sadly, I couldn’t bring myself to finish this book. After about a third I threw in the towel as I was getting bored and nervous at the same time. The chief problem has already been flagged by a number of other reviewers. The narrative is built around a timeline stretching from 1870 to 1900, with a year-by-year sequence of chapters. Each chapter is then conceived as a mosaic in which a more less fixed roster of luminaries makes its appearance. The effect is, on the one hand, highly disorienting. For example, in chapter 10 the story switches in the space of just a few pages from Manet to Dumas jr to Sarah Bernardt to the Statue of Liberty to the basilica of Sacré-Coeur to the Panama Canal to Flaubert and Goncourt. And this kind of pacing is kept up for several hundreds of pages. On the other hand, the unrelenting fragmentation brings with it a curious effect of stasis, as if one is reading the same story over and over again. McAuliffe’s perfunctory development of her characters is partly to blame for that too. These famous artists, political leaders and artefacts remain two dimensional creatures, frozen in cliché-laden poses: Clémenceau the agitator, Debussy the womanizer, debt-ridden Claude Monet, thoughtful Berthe Morisot, kittenish Sara Bernhardt, …
It seems to me that McAuliffe, in effort to dramatize these postures, at times does not adhere to what is known as historical fact. That is another major defect of this book. For example, McAuliffe describes the critical reaction to the first private, ‘Impressionist’ exhibition in 1874 as ‘hostile bordering on hysteria, including warnings that this art form was so inherently vile that it threatened pregnant women and the moral order.’ Reality appeared to have been rather different. In Scott Schaefer’s excellent essay ‘Impressionism and the Public Imagination’ in xxx we read: “The ‘Première Exposition’ was widely covered in the press, with about 15 articles written about it. Of ten important reviews, six were very favorable to the concept and execution of the show itself, although somewhat mixed in their opinions of the individual paintings. Four reviews were thoroughly negative. (…) three of the six favorable critics were unstinting in there praise of the artists and their works.” So, McAuliffe seems to be right in asserting that the exhibition was not a commercial success, but it critical reception was far more differentiated than she makes us believe (and, perhaps, not at all unusual in 1870s Parisian critical landscape).
The impression of blandness is reinforced by McAuliffe’s stilted prose that, as other reviewers have pointed out, tends to rely on fixed, formulaic turns of phrase. To me the language feels fake, feeding the suspicion that the author, despite an impressive bibliographic apparatus marshaled at the end of the book, does not master her material. Oddly, in other cases, McAuliffe fails to capture opportunities to enliven and dramatize the book’s narrative by simply reciting the facts. To give just one example, by the early 1870s Edouard Manet had been painting for over a decade without really encountering critical or commercial success. In 1872 he was ‘discovered’ by the important dealer Durand-Ruel. McAuliffe doesn’t mention this fact in the chapter devoted to the year 1872, but she casually brings it up later, when the timeline has reached 1880: “… the dealer brought twenty-two of Manet’s works – the first time the painter really sold anything.” In Beth Archer Brombert’s biography of Manet (Edouard Manet: Rebel in a Frock Coat), the story assumes much more weight and relief. Citing Durand-Ruel’s memoires, we learn that the dealer bought two lots of paintings on two consecutive days: one lot of 23 (not twenty-two) canvases for 35,000 francs and another lot for 16,000 francs. This would have been a remarkable windfall for any artist and Manet used to proceeds to lie low for a few months and move into a new, giant studio in a former fencing school. This is the revealing kind of detail that we miss in McAuliffe’s narration. ‘Dawn of the Belle Epoque’ is detailed in a cavalier, gossipy kind of way but does not really draw the reader into the fabric of this fascinating era. As a final example of the ‘wrong’ kind of detail, in her discussion of the year 1886 McAuliff mentions Debussy as spending his time reading at the Villa Médicis in Rome (where he was intitled to stay as prize winner of the Prix de Rome): “… he had read widely and gravitated toward the avant-garde Symbolists (among them, André Gide, Paul Valéry, and Mallarmé)”. In 1886 André Gide was just 17 years old and had published literally nothing …
Is it possible that Mary McAuliffe wanted to write a book that would strike the reader in the way an impressionist painting impacts our eyes? A collection of disjointed dots and brush strokes that, considered from the right vantage point, radiates with sense and life? If so, ‘Dawn of the Belle Epoque’ unquestionably represents a failed attempt. Two stars. To be avoided.
A delightful, easily read overview of Paris from the close of the Franco-Prussian war through the fin-du-siècle. McAuliffe embraces and investigates the artists, writers, musicians, engineers, architects, scientists, and a few political figures (Georges Clemenceau, Louise Michel) of this fascinating era to show a world in change. How marvelous, to spend time in what was then Baron Haussman's new city, a place where art and letters mattered.
I came away with a feeling that, as much as I admire Debussy's music, I'd not have liked him as a human being; that some other revolutionary artists (Degas, e.g,) weren't very nice; that titans like Paul Cezanne were surprisingly riddled with self-doubt; that those whom we now deem canonical, such as Renoir and Monet, struggled to overcome ingrained tastes and prejudices against their "new" art even as, in middle age, others like Whistler thought them old hat.
This is more concerned with the belle, yet important social and political issues play darker notes throughout: the Paris Commune, l'affair Dreyfus, anti-Semitism, poverty and injustice, women artists of all degrees being dismissed as mere women...
One of the themes that interested me most was the portrait of the old, bombastic lion of French letters, Emile Zola, shaking off his self-involvement and egotism to write J'accuse, defending justice and the Jews and Dreyfus while risking his own dear reputation and even liberty.
A lovely book, whose only flaw is that one wished for even more telling illustrations than it already possesses (say, a Mucha poster for Sarah Bernhardt, or a reproduction of Pissaro's Olympia or... But that's a quibble.
Mary McAuliffe has produced a well-researched, well-organized, and delightfully readable book that covers the cultural history of Paris from the Commune to the death of Zola. In this period that saw the rise of Impressionism and Symbolism; the musical beginnings of Debussy, Ravel, and Satie; the construction of the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty; the opening of the Ritz paired with the innovative cuisine of Escoffier; the dominating stage presence of Bernhardt; the beginning of the political career of Clemenceau; and the playing out of the Dreyfus Affair, the author finds time to note the lesser-known history as well. The lives of Berthe Morisot and her daughter Julie Manet, the complicated family life of Monet, the roles of Le Chat Noir and Cabaret Au Lapin Agile in the artistic life of the city, the agon of Rodin, and Misia Natanson's role as muse, all find attention and meaningful connection with the evolution of Paris in this remarkable work. It must be read by any with an interest in the fabled Belle Epoque and a love for the City of Light.
Finish date: 17 January 2022 Genre: Non-fiction Rating: A Review:
Bad news: No book is perfect...but I had to think very hard to find a minus point in this book. It was long (400 pages). That is a lot to cover in 2 days. I have the next book on my reading list but will have to wait until I digest this one. Rightly Ms McAuliffe touches on the politics and science (..few pages about Mme Cure) in the Belle Epoque. Honestly, I've read about - seen movie about The Dreyfus Affair so felt I could skim these pages. Also George Clemeanceau and all his band of merry men...don't interest me. Also...there were not many illustrations in the book so I had to depend on Wikipedia/Google.
Good news: Now the real reason to read this book is the world of literature, art, music and engineering! 75% of the book is about the wonderful world of French painters who dazzled the world. We all know the list of names but I fell very much head over heels reading about Pissarro. He tends to fall into the back round when you think about Van Gogh, Renoir, Degas, Manet brothers and Monet. But Camille Pissarro was the father figure who nurtured and held these men together! PS: Did you know Pissarro was born in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands?
Good News Having read bio’s about B. Morisot and V. Hugo I could quickly get through the first chapters. Also I’ve read all 20 of Zola’s Rougon-Macquart books….so references to Nana or L’Assommier, L'Oeuvre were familiar characters to me. I knew nothing about the great 4 composers Claude Debussy, D'Indy, Ravel and the wonderful Saint-Saëns. If you do anything listen to his Carnival des Animaux on Spotify…just breathtaking. This book contains tidbits of information that have slipped between the cracks of Wikipedia!
Good news: There were interesting chapters about the history of the Pantheon in Paris (…..Victor Hugo thought is a wretched copy of St. Peter’s in Rome!) Statue of Liberty - Eiffel Tower. There were...steamy love affairs: between Debussy and older Mme Vasnier (married). Another affair between Claude Monet and Mme Alice Hoschedé (married) was very touching...they stayed devoted to each other for life! Loved the back round information about Rodin’s famous sculpture “The Kiss”…was it inspired by his affair with Camille Claudel or Dante’s Inferno 2nd level Francesca en Paolo?
Good news: Auguste Escoffier shook-up the world of haute cuisine and created Pêche Melba for Australian singer Nellie Melba and Fraises Bernhardt for Sarah, the great French actress. He was just as revolutionary as anything Rodin, Seurat, Debussy or Gustave Eiffel were doing! He looked at restaurant meals from a woman’s point of view….as every chef should!
Good news: Did I learn something I never heard? Sarah Bernhardt was not only an actress but also a sculptor. I got a peak at the installation plans for the Statue of Liberty and Tour Eiffel. Learned about the uproar the controversial sculpture The Bronze Age by Rodin created. The model was a Belgian soldier and so lifelike no one believed it was not made with a plaster caste of the body! What a body! (see Wikipedia)
Personal While reading this book I had Spotify to listen to the music of the composers and Wikipedia to have the many works of art (don't forget the beautiful Art Nouveau illustrations by Alphonse Mucha....beautiful!) by the painters at my fingertips. It is the best way to read this book. Finally after having collected dust on my TBR for 5 years...I discovered this gem! #MountTBR2022
Loved this book. Belle Epoque France is a fascinating time and place, packed with brilliant and important people in every field of human expression from the arts through the sciences: Monet, Clemenceau, Hugo, Bernhardt, Curie, Debussy, Zola, Eiffel, Satie... the list goes on and on. Mary McAuliffe relates the history of the Belle Epoque by weaving together the stories of these people’s lives, and the result is a highly readable book.
McAuliffe begins with the catastrophes that were the Franco Prussian War and the Commune, and then goes on to show how the French rose from the ashes to rebuild Paris and reach some of France’s greatest heights in the arts and sciences. Her writing is gripping, and even though I’ve read a fair amount about the Dreyfus Affair, McAuliffe’s account of it was unputdownable. What a hero Zola really was. Your inner Francophile will love this book.
A lively, largely anecdotal ‘history’ of the cultural scene — presented year by year (1870-1900) — in the Paris of the Belle Epoque. The treatment is largely effective for those already familiar with the cast of characters. She includes a nice summary discussion of the Commune and of the Dreyfus Affair, and excellent character studies especially of Berthe and Julie Manet, of Zola, Rodin, Debussy, and others.
An excellent encapsulated history of Paris and France from the events of the commune until 1900, focussing on the lives of the Impressionists, authors, actors, and musicians of the time. It's a great book for those that are interested in history without the academic analysis and statistics - it read like a novel.
Superb. Thoroughly enjoyed the way the author wove the stories of so many prominent artists, musicians, engineers, authors, politicians, actors et al, into a fascinating, entertaining, and coherent whole. Will be jumping right into the 'Twilight of the Belle Epoque'.
Much time has passed since I finished reading this enjoyable book, which, from a review perspective is bad and good.
It's bad because I quickly forget details, especially after I start reading another book; it is very possible I'd mix the details of the previous read with details from my current read. How unfortunate and embarrassing would it be to be describing the beauty, the innovations, the influences, and even the ugliness of Paris and its surrounds and characters during the late 1800s and discover I've thrown in a detail about the sex-based society of the Bonobos?
It's good because I can see which details from the book have stuck with me, making this more a review of me as opposed to a review of the book, I suppose. What stuck?
The Curies - the way the book touched on the love between them, the amazing intelligence and determination of Marie and the devotion and encouragement of her husband Pierre in a time when women were generally regarded as not being capable of significant contributions to science or art or....
Berthe Morisot - how both her marriage certificate and her death certificate listed her as having "no occupation."
The confirmation that artistic genius and insight do not necessarily originate in those inhabiting the moral high ground.
McAuliffe intertwines the political, military, social, engineering, literary, and art history of France from the period of the Commune, 1870, to the Paris exposition of 1900. You don't find many books that discuss all those topics together, so if you've read about the political history of France and have read about the Impressionist artists, and you know that the Statue of Liberty was a gift of the French to the Americans, you may well enjoy seeing how they, as well as the Eiffel Tower all fit together. Sometimes it feels a bit disjointed because no one person or project or event was delved into deeply at any one time. This is because McAuliffe explains it all year by year. There will be a short discussion of, say Eiffel, and then it jumps to Clemenceau or Le Chat Noir or Berthe Morisot. But in doing that, McAuliffe follows the people and events in their own time frame and for me it was great to see what things were happening at the same time and how they interacted and influenced each other.
Possibly, because no one person or project or event is delved into deeply at any one time, you don't get as emotionally attached to the protagonists as you might if a whole chapter or a whole book were dedicated to any one of them. The exception to this distancing, for me, was the explanation of the Dreyfus case. Even broken up into bits, it landed a big punch.
This book deals with an interesting topic and is well-written. I liked the photographs. However, I think there were a lot of problems. First of all, the author talks about many famous artists, but never really explained who they are in detail. It was not an issue for me as I already know a lot about this topic, but I feel it could be difficult for someone who is not familiar with this period of history. I found that Ms McAuliffe just started describing events without much of an introduction. It was as if the beginning of the book was missing. Secondly, I found the structure of the book difficult to follow. The historical period is dealt with year by year. This is very good if one is interested in a year in particular, like I was whilst using this book for research. However, it is very tedious to read from the beginning to the end. It feels very repetitive as the same people and events are mentioned again and again, chapter after chapter.
McAuliffe's research and obvious love for Paris comes through loud and clear. She struggles a bit to tie the lives of her subjects together in tidy knots. Sometimes I felt like I was unravelling a skein of yarn which the cat undid in a frenzied moment.
As a Europhile, and being so fortunate to have visited so many of the places discussed, I enjoyed this read. Kudos to the author for the effort it took to put all these known (at least somewhat) characters together in a time frame and an historical context, and develop a fascinating storyline.
An often interesting account of French society, with a focus on Paris, in the aftermath of the collapse of Napoleon III's short lived reign. Mary McAuliffe promises the reader an introduction to the cultural and artistic landscape of those years. While she provides that, Mary also tries to offer the reader an account of politics in the era along with a look at economics. It's not that they're misplaced or poorly recounted, it's simply too much for one book. A little bit of political contextualization is helpful but multiple sections on politics often drowns out the other, more excellent, parts of her work. When mary focuses on Zola, Monet, Manet, Bernhardt, and the other artists, "Dawn if the Belle Epoque" shines brightly. We often encounter these names but this work situates them, explores their works, their lives, and their relationships. Mary McAuliffe's work is excellently sourced but could be structured a little better. The political chapters aren't all that enlightening and the choice to interweave all the artists together makes sense could have been executed better. There were more than a few moments when Mary would be discussing Zola and then jump to Bernhardt. then to Hugo, and then to another artist. As a result, some of the stories could be forgotten in the dash between narratives. The choice works on a thematic level but wasn't executed properly. That being said, however, for anyone looking for an introduction to a part of history often forgotten in the United States, "Dawn of the Belle Epoque" is a great choice. While biased, Zola is one of my favorite authors, Mary treats her subjects with respect but doesn't fall into adulation. Anyone reading this should take a look at the art from this period afterwards and appreciate it all the more.
Dawn of the Belle Époque tells the story of the beginning of the artistic renaissance that marked Paris in the late nineteenth century.
France was a divided country in this era. Conservatives, Royalists and Clerics clashed with liberal bohemians. If there’s a glaring fault in this book, it’s that we get only the liberal perspective. There is no study of the personalities or ideas of the right.
Still, the left eventually prevailed in France and history is written by the victors. It’s also not a book that studies in depth the artistic and literary movements that made the Belle Époque so celebrated. But as a survey of the lives and oeuvre that would forever etch its mark on Western culture it’s a refreshingly light read.
As you can see, I am somewhat conflicted on this work. I appreciate the ability of the author to deal with a complex subject in simple prose but I somehow feel like I got little real insight into these artists. As a survey of the Belle Époque it’s a welcome work. It’s probably worth the time investment of reading three hundred pages plus only by those with scant knowledge of this era.
Monet. Manet. Hugo. Zola. Debussey. Eiffel. Degas. Rodin. Sarah Bernhardt. Morisot. Satie. The Commune. The Dreyfus Affair. This is just a sampling of the people and events that characterized Paris from 1870 to the end of the century. DAWN OF THE BELLE EPOQUE, therefore, is a bit of a Francophile dream, offering a light, entertaining survey of the time.
The book hops around a lot, and while comprehensive in its way, its aims are broad, and not especially deep. With so many personages to track, I occasionally got lost, especially when the author covers some of the lesser-known figures of the period. And a few choices were odd. For instance, a good number of pages are dedicated to Beatrice Morisot's daughter, Janet, who is, at best, a marginal figure.
Nevertheless, if you want a taste of what it was like to be alive in the most exciting city in the world at one of its most vital times, and not be challenged too much, this is a worthwhile read.
Sau mai degraba 2,5 stele. Pe parcursul a 18 ani, din 1900 pana in 1918, cartea urmareste vietile lui Picasso, Matisse, Rodin, Debussy, Ravel, Andre Citroen, fratii Renault,Coty, Sarah Bernardh pe final de cariera, Gertrude Stein, Isadora Duncan, Diaghikiev si nasterea celebrelor Ballet Russes. Apar in scena Nijinski, Stravinsky, Marcel Proust, un tanar De Gaulle, Modugliani, Braque, Clemenceau, Coco Channel si multi multi altii. Este povestea unei lumi care moare si a uneia care se naste, totul sub ochii Parisului. Problema e insa cu felul in care e scrisa cartea, capitolele nu se leaga neaparat, doar o insiruire de evenimente si intamplari.
The heart and soul of this incredibly rich period of French history and culture always seems to be the Impressionist painters, and author Mary McAuliffe describes with many facts and anecdotes the faith, determination, setbacks, and heartbreaks of these daring, innovative artists on the long, hard road to respectability and acceptance into the Salon. But there was so very much more going on in France during the Belle Epoque (1871-1914) beginning with the end of the Franco-Prussian war and ending at the start of World War I. She begins with a description of how France struggled after Paris was under siege by the Prussians. Many starved, and even after the Prussians pulled out, the whole country was left in poverty as well as struggling in spirit. McAuliffe describes in excruciating detail the actions of the radical Paris Commune—a group that attempted to set up a left-wing government—and their bloody fate. After their defeat, the surviving radicals were not pleased to see the Cathedral of Sacré Cœur, which represented traditional monarchal and Catholics values-- taking shape at Montmartre, the heart and soul of where their movement began. Fortunately, France rallied from the trauma and the forthcoming artistic energy was dizzying in its quantity, quality, and scope. Monet, Renoir, Cézanne, Pissarro, Morisot, Dégas, Seurat and their successors—Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec and VanGogh—persisted in their new concept of painting. (McAuliffe seems to have a special spot in her heart for Berthe Morisot, sister-in-law to Edouard Manet, and the only native French woman painter to succeed in the Impressionist movement, while maintaining her femininity and tender motherhood toward daughter Julie). Also, Auguste Rodin and Camille Claudel brought new eloquence to sculpture, Debussy, Satie and Ravel composed innovative music, Zola began his long career as novelist and chief defender of the wronged Colonel Alfred Dreyfus, Sarah Bernhardt dazzled the stage with her bold interpretation of an array of theater roles, Marie Curie began her work that would lead to the discovery of radium, César Ritz began plans for the world’s classiest hotels, Frédéric Bartholdi began designing the Statue of Liberty as a gift to the United States, and a brilliant iron engineer named Gustave Eiffel was designing bridges, securing the framework for the Statue of Liberty, advising plans for the Panama Canal, and, of course, supervising work on his famous and controversial tower, which would become the focal point of the centennial world exposition of 1889. (Incidentally, all the jokes about the Eiffel Tower looking unfinished and much like a child’s erector set are true—in reverse. McAuliffe calls the tower “a sort of gigantic and perfect erector set—the classic children’s toy that in fact was eventually created based on Eiffel’s famed methods” ). The 1889 fair also had demonstrations of the telephone, phonograph, and hot air balloon, (and here Bernhardt distinguished herself not only as actress, sculptor, writer, and painter, but also as a balloon adventurer). At one point during this time, a chandelier fell at the Opéra Garnier, killing one person, injuring others, and inspiring Gaston Leroux’s novel Phantom of the Opéra. This was also the period of Art Nouveau, whose central artist was a Czech immigrant, Alphonse Mucha, who became famous for an advertisement of Sarah Bernhardt in Gismonda as well as numerous other posters that are still popular today. Beginning with Le Chat Noir, the modern cabaret was born, and another café, Le Lapin Agile, became a favorite hangout for the talented, avant-garde anti-establishment contingent. And it was during this time that the first tunnels for the Paris Metro were being dug, and the beret was coming into its own as quintessentially French headgear. Eugène Poubell, prefect of the Seine issued strict laws governing street cleaning and garbage collection (thus giving his name to the modern French word for garbage can ). McAuliffe includes descriptions of the political events of the day—with Georges Clemenceau as a central figure—and the eclectic political-social climate that, unfortunately, contributed to the rising tide of virulent anti-Semitism in France that would culminate at the end of the century in the Dreyfus affair, which split the country in two—Dreyfussards, who believed the French-Jewish colonel was unjustly accused of treason and imprisoned on Devil’s Island, and the anti-Dreyfussards, who persisted in upholding lies and cover-ups about his supposed guilt. Due in part to Zola’s courageous defense of Dreyfus, which was much at Zola’s own expense, Dreyfus was eventually exonerated and repatriated. He rejoined the French army and served during World War I. The horrific anti- Semitism increased in France, however, “invoking the language of genocide and extermination” (312). My only disappointment in this study is that McAuliffe did not mention much about the filmmaking industry that France gave to the world during this era, beginning with the Lumière brothers, then with the fantastically imaginative early films of the talented Georges Méliès. Nevertheless, this book is an incredibly rich study of the marvels of the period and filled not just with historical fact, but also with innumerable human interest anecdotes about the events and people who contributed to such a phenomenal period in French culture and how it came to affect the rest of the world.
My Art History Book Club read the "Dawn of the Belle Epoque: The Paris of Monet, Zola, Bernhardt, Eiffel, Debussy, Clemenceau and Their Friends" and enjoyed it. As made clear in the title, McAuliffe has written a character-driven, narrative non-fiction book that is accessible to a popular audience and covers thirty years (1870-1900). Sarah Berhardt, for example, captured the attention of the readers and left us turning the pages to learn about the progression of her life. We are reading "Twilight of the Belle Epoque" next year.
After I finished "Luncheon of the Boating Party" this came through my hands at the library and I saw a golden opportunity. This book covers the 20 years from the Commune to the turn of the century. With a year for each chapter, the stories of all the historical figures, mainly in Paris are told in parallel. It's easy to read and follow that way (though not a page turner) and it gave me context for a lot of facts and people I know about but couldn't connect before.
The writing is a bit clunky at times, but the author is covering a huge swath of history and people, making an effort to weave them together to give a picture of the times. I found it very readable and interesting -especially the backdrop of the Paris Commune - the author says that Parisians do not forget their history - and also the Dreyfus Affair. History can help put current events into some perspective.
Mai degraba almanah decat lucrare istorica. Mai degraba colectie de scurte note decat de povestiri. Ceva intre curiozitate si superficialitate. Ceva intre esenta tare si spuma de serbet. Prea multe personaje, prea putine aprofundari. Mai degraba o carte de vacanta decat una de "rumegat". Dar antrenanta, vioaie, desi previzibila. O carte pe care o uiti repede pentru ca mai sunt inca alte multe carti de tinut minte.
Fun and gossipy, this history of Paris during the end of the 19th century weaves the strands of Art, Architecture, Feminism, Literature, Music, Politics, and Theater, year by year, into a coherent whole ... drops names like a crazy quilt: Monet, Debussy, Ravel, Zola, Bernhardt, Eiffel, Clemenceau,etc., etc. ... especially clever and informative about the Dreyfus Affair ...