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Paris at the End of the World: How the City of Lights Soared in Its Darkest Hour, 1914-1918

3.13  ·  Rating details ·  292 ratings  ·  74 reviews
A preeminent writer on Paris, John Baxter brilliantly brings to life one of the most dramatic and fascinating periods in the city’s history.

From 1914 through 1918 the terrifying sounds of World War I could be heard from inside the French capital. For four years, Paris lived under constant threat of destruction. And yet in its darkest hour, the City of Light blazed more bri
Paperback, 402 pages
Published April 15th 2014 by Harper Perennial
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3.13  · 
Rating details
 ·  292 ratings  ·  74 reviews

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Feb 20, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
I was excited to see this book in the Goodreads giveaways and entered to win it. I have reviewed plenty of books on WWI along with undergraduate and graduate studies of the war. One thing that is rarely covered is the civilian impact of the war. Paris was in range of the German guns and aerial bombings. It was not captured as in WWII but stood at the edge of the the fighting. How did Parisians react to the war? Were there large volunteer efforts making field dressings? Did the population maintai ...more
Les Romantiques
Apr 08, 2014 rated it it was ok
Reviewed by Agnès
Review Copy from the Publisher

A very strange book. Obviously I didn’t get it, or I was not the target audience, or something is terribly rotten in the state of Denmark, because all I can say is : WHAT was it about ??? First of all, I thought it was a novel. Well, it’s not, which wouldn’t be terribly wrong per se. But then I thought it was about the first world war, too. It’s not either, the war is just a far, far background. We have a glimpse of it at the beginning of the book,
Felix Hayman
Jul 03, 2014 rated it it was ok
Paris at the end of the World is subtitled The City of Light during the Great Well, this is not really about The City of Light or the end of La belle epoque.In fact, it is a memoir of the author's search for his grandfather during The Great War. As an Australian I was interested to read his journey to discovery but I kept asking myself, what the hell has this to do with Paris 1914-1918?It is not really a social history of the place and time and not really a history of The Great War, it is more a ...more
Nov 28, 2015 rated it liked it
'Paris at the End of the World is not really a historical work so much as a string of anecdotes (personal and historical), strung together with pictures. It reminded me somewhat of a scrapbook, in fact. As long as the reader isn’t expecting a work of thorough historical scholarship, it is enjoyable and entertaining. I got some great anecdotes from it to drop into conversation. Yes, I make small talk about the massive gun used to bombard Paris during WWI, what of it?

Although there is an element
Jill Hutchinson
Oct 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a whimsical little book that is not what it appears. It is not necessarily about Paris, although she plays a large part in the book, but rather a look at the effect war had on the artistic and social life in Paris and London. As well, it is the author's search for his grandfather's service with the Anzac forces during the Great War. So the title is extremely misleading, although once I got started, I was not complaining.

Each chapter is a vignette of something or someone that set the fash
Jun 21, 2014 rated it liked it
Even though I liked reading this book, I don't think it knew that it was about. What it about the heady, hedonist days of frivolity in Paris during WWI, as the title states? Yes and no. Was it about the terror and shortages and fear of living forty miles from the front line during WWI, the opposite of what the title states? Yes and no. Was it not about Paris at all, but rather a brief history of WWI? Yes and no. Was it about the author's grandfather's service in the Australian army during WWI? Y ...more
Hayden Trenholm
Feb 22, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: paris, non-fiction
I was disappointed by this book -- not entirely by John Baxter but by the editor, publisher and marketing department which sold this book as something it wasn't. This book is a lot of things but the story of Paris during WWI is not one of them. Rather it is a series of anecdotes about Paris (yes, part of the book is set there), Australia, England, the rest of Europe -- and only partly set in the period of 1914-18.

In fact a significant part revolves around the author's search for the truth around
Sep 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
I was looking for a book in English about life in Paris during World War 1. There's surprisingly little available on the subject at all. Having said that this was an odd read.

It did give me a good sense of how strange things were in the city of Paris during WWI and how little the war impacted the city's pre-war hedonistic ways.

However, the book was inter-spaced with the authors research into his Australian grandfather's WWI experiences. The two subjects sit uneasily together. The book does giv
Lisa Dornell
I thoroughly enjoyed this quirky little book. John Baxter, an Australian who has lived in Paris for 20 years, explores how the First World War affected not only his adopted city but also his Aussie grandfather who enlisted in the ANZAC forces. Most delightful was the colorful cast of characters, many of whom are well known but not, perhaps, for their war efforts. (Did you know that Jean Cocteau was an ambulance driver?)

If you're looking for a history of the conflict, this isn't it. It's more a c
Aug 15, 2015 rated it it was ok
What begins as a spirited look at Paris in 1914 becomes a cul-de-sac of sorts: the reader is teased into following a story about the author's grandfather that goes nowhere, More irritating is Baxter's dismissiveness of the French artists and magazine writers when they portrayed the Germans army as a savage force ravaging Belgium and other nations. What were they supposed to do? This Monday-morning quarterbacking put me off, as did the descriptions of what went on in Parisian brothels: Baxter see ...more
Oct 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: wwi
Until I opened this book, I half expected a narrative focused on Joseph Gallieni's organization of the defense of Paris. As other reviewers have pointed out -- not even close.

Author John Baxter, an Australian-born Paris resident, presents a series of WWI Paris researches and vignettes, connected only by time, location and his efforts to uncover a history of his Grandfather -- an Aussie soldier who spent time in wartime Paris. Baxter's focus is on salons, artists, writers, brothels, fashions, war
Aug 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book wasn't what I expected at all but I did enjoy it.
I expected the book to be about how Paris and her inhabitants had survived and thrived during the Great War, and it sort of was, but then again, it sort of wasn't.
Interspersed with the factual history, is the story of the author's grandfather, Archie, of how he peppered his life with mispronounced French phrases after his service in the Australian Expeditionary Force during the Great War.
I don't want to say too much about Archie and his
Mar 22, 2018 rated it liked it
It's the first time reading this author and I'm caught. He writes about World War I and all the countries involved. Then, he adds a bit of drama almost like he has this gnawing feeling about his grandfather, Archie Baxter, who volunteered to leave Australia and go to France from 1914 to 1918. He described vividly what France was like during this time with some humor and comical illustrations of the day.
It seems like no family member got to know the withdrawn Archie and this mystery seeped into
Anas Sabbar
Jul 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This nimble read is one of disjointed vignettes that serve as a study of the the grey area between pedestrians and the trenches, threaded through with a narrative of how the Aussie author's grandfather served with the Anzac and the diverse reasons for volunteering.

It reads like several illustrated magazine features, with one theme (WWI) but not much else joining it together. It jumps from prostitution to doughboys, Picasso’s Parade ballet to Jean Cocteau's exuberances, sober analysis's to delici
Lisa Mcbroom
I have always said I love how events such as revolutions and war transform themselves to art. John Baxter on a quest to find out about his grandfather Archie's time in France during World War 1 and his obsession with the city of Lights discover how art, literature, poetry and theatre become prevalent during this time. Famous artisians and poets include Rupert Brooke, Ernest Hemingway, Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso, and ee cummings. Also of interest is how the postcard industry boomed during this t ...more
Oct 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
This is a book that meanders. At times it is a history of Paris during WW1- other times it is an imagined journey of the author’s grandfather’s time in Paris during WW1.

There some unusual histories included, such as Jean Cocteau and a possible intersection w Grandpa. As you read my review- you can see it becoming more disjointed; this is the book.

Why did I read it? I’m a book rake- a term that Robert Graves used to describe his reading habits in the far better written: Merry Heart. It’s a good b
Jun 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
I wanted to go with 3 and a half stars, but the more I thought about it the more I believed it deserved that extra half. It was a really interesting book, and if you're wanting to start researching civilian Paris life in WWI, this is a good starting book.
Dennis Richards
Mar 09, 2019 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Light and entertaining tidbits of social history relating to France, The Great War, and other tangential things.
Jul 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating study of Paris and it's people during and after the war and how it changed the city forever.
Gil Burket
In recent years I’ve come to realize that the World War I period was a lot more colorful than the drab of khaki, feld grau and endless mud.

Paris at the End of the World describes the City of Light during its existence a mere 40 miles from the front line. While armies slugged it out in the chaos of the trenches, wire and artillery barrages, life continued in Paris, although not without intrusions.

Throughout the war years, the plays, literary scene, and music continued to flourish, although over t
Susan Ross Donohue
Nov 09, 2018 rated it liked it
As others have mentioned, the title is a bit misleading as there isn’t as much on life in Paris as one would think. I still enjoyed the book.
Apr 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Another historical walk around Paris, but in this one he also investigates his Australian grandfather's part in the Great War with the help of professional historians and researchers.
Andrew Littell
Oct 19, 2018 rated it it was ok
Misleading title. This book is less about Paris and WWI than it is about the author's exploration of his Australian grandfather's participation in WWI, of which very, very little is actually known.
Jan 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, 2018
The title doesn’t fit what the book was actually about.
I was really looking forward to sitting down and reading this book, after all according to the title I would get an insight into what life was like for the French, in particular Parisians during World War One. What I actually found between the pages was more a memoir written by the Author of their search for his Grandfather during the war.

Questions I wanted to know such as the Parisians reaction to a war raging so close to their city was not covered and, although the journey of discovery the Aut
Apr 02, 2014 rated it liked it
3.5 stars

World War I was an absolutely incredible, global war that permanently changed European life forever. John Baxter's Paris at the End of the World: How the City of Lights Soared in its Darkest Hour, 1914-1918 aimed to take the journey through Paris to see how the city and the civilians coped with the war. However, this swift read is more of disjointed vignettes, threaded through with a narrative of how Baxter's grandfather served from Australia and what had happened to him.

Each chapter ta
Oct 27, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: gitm
From the title, I was expecting this book to be about daily life in Paris during World War 1, or maybe the cultural history of Paris during that time. Considering the title, that seems like a fairly obvious assumption, doesn't it? There is a little of that, but most of the book is dedicated to the author's search for information about his Australian grandfather's experience during the war (Spoiler alert: there is no evidence his grandfather ever set foot in Paris at all, ever.). In other words, ...more
Oct 18, 2017 rated it did not like it
Ugh. Where do I start?

I can't stand the way this author writes. Is it a biography, fiction, memoir, history or what?

What I saw was a mixture of pretentiousness, history, fiction (which incredibly, in that small chapter was probably the best one out of the book), condescension, French words (a dictionary in the book would have been nice), big, long words that contributed nothing to the betterment of the sentence, etc...

Now for his thoughts and prose that I really hated:

(talking about soldiers in
Apr 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I thoroughly enjoyed "Paris At The End of the World". It is not a historical novel, nor is it a history of World War I, nor is it a biography of the author's grandfather, Archie. It is all of these, written as a popular narrative history of WWI and the lives of people in Paris at the time. Not to mention that there is also an ongoing story of grandfather Archie's war experience.

This book caught my eye because I have just returned from my first trip to Paris, which included a tour of WWI battlefi
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John Baxter (born 1939 in Randwick, New South Wales) is an Australian-born writer, journalist, and film-maker.

Baxter has lived in Britain and the United States as well as in his native Sydney, but has made his home in Paris since 1989, where he is married to the film-maker Marie-Dominique Montel. They have one daughter, Louise.

He began writing science fiction in the early 1960s for New Worlds, Sci