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From Edward Rutherfurd, the grand master of the historical novel, comes a dazzling epic about the magnificent city of Paris. Moving back and forth in time, the story unfolds through intimate and thrilling tales of self-discovery, divided loyalty, and long-kept secrets. As various characters come of age, seek their fortunes, and fall in and out of love, the novel follows nobles who claim descent from the hero of the celebrated poem The Song of Roland; a humble family that embodies the ideals of the French Revolution; a pair of brothers from the slums behind Montmartre, one of whom works on the Eiffel Tower as the other joins the underworld near the Moulin Rouge; and merchants who lose everything during the reign of Louis XV, rise again in the age of Napoleon, and help establish Paris as the great center of art and culture that it is today. With Rutherfurd’s unrivaled blend of impeccable research and narrative verve, this bold novel brings the sights, scents, and tastes of the City of Light to brilliant life.

809 pages, Paperback

First published April 23, 2013

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About the author

Edward Rutherfurd

37 books4,884 followers
Francis Edward Wintle, best known under his pen name Edward Rutherfurd, was born in the cathedral city of Salisbury. Educated locally, and at the universities of Cambridge, and Stanford, California, he worked in political research, bookselling and publishing. After numerous attempts to write books and plays, he finally abandoned his career in the book trade in 1983, and returned to his childhood home to write SARUM, a historical novel with a ten-thousand year story, set in the area around the ancient monument of Stonehenge, and Salisbury. Four years later, when the book was published, it became an instant international bestseller, remaining 23 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List. Since then he has written five more bestsellers: RUSSKA, a novel of Russia; LONDON; THE FOREST, set in England's New Forest which lies close by Sarum, and two novels which cover the story of Ireland from the time just before Saint Patrick to the twentieth century. His books have been translated into twenty languages.

Edward has lived in London, New York, New Hampshire and Ireland. He currently divides his time between New England and Europe. He has two children.

Edward Rutherfurd is a Life Member of the Friends of Salisbury Cathedral, the Salisbury Civic Society, and the Friends of Chawton House, which is located in Jane Austen's village and dedicated to the study of women writers. He is also a Patron of the National Theatre of Ireland (the Abbey Theatre) in Dublin.

In 2005, the City of Salisbury commemorated his services to the city by naming one of the streets leading off its medieval market place 'Rutherfurd Walk'.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,831 reviews
Profile Image for Jackie Ullerich.
Author 6 books128 followers
July 6, 2017
I read this awhile ago, but wanted to add it because if you're like me and have a passion for travel and history, you may very well love this as much as I did. It's a multi-generational novel, following the story of one family from medieval times to the 1960's. Edward Rutherfurd did a brilliant job with his vivid description and character development. I loved seeing Paris through their eyes and experiences.

His research was extensive and it shows on the page. Do not be intimidated by the 800 plus pages. PARIS is worth your time!

I had a hard time putting this down, and when I did I couldn't wait for the opportunity to pick it up again.

One thing that is unique about this novel is that it switches from past to present and back to past again, a pattern throughout the book. Some people might not enjoy that, but for me, it was a strength. I didn't find it distracting at all.

I have no doubt you'll be longing for a trip to Paris within the first 50 pages!
Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,780 reviews1,458 followers
April 11, 2015

I really, really enjoyed this. There is only one thing that prevents me from giving five stars - the language is ordinary. I still want to highly recommend it, but I better explain for whom it is best suited. Even if I sat glued, it might not fit all.

This book is chock-full of history. Lots of interesting historical details that are presented in an easily understood manner and clearly explained. Battle scenes are short. This book does cover the two wars but it is not just about them. Many of the historical events have whole books written on that ONE event. Reading this book is like reading tons of other books all in one. You see the whole picture. I found not one error. I don't believe any reader will fail to learn something new. Do you know why we use the term plaster of paris? Do you know of the Faux Paris in WW1? You get a comprehensive summary and at the same time a wonderful story.

The history is not only about Paris, but about France too. The time period covered is from the Middle Ages, up to the student uprising in 1968. Not just politics, not just wars, but also cultural movements as well as authors and musicians and artists galore. Look at the title. Do you get the feel of Paris by reading this book? Yes, you do.

If I mention one topic covered, it feels so inadequate since I could name twenty, thirty others that are equally interesting. The building of the Eiffel Tower, World Exhibitions, the Lost Generation with Hemingway and Shakespeare & Company and Gertrude Stein, the growth of feminism, the Plague and the Spanish Flu. Oh, so inadequate! I feel like erasing these because the book is so comprehensive that to name but a few seems all wrong. So, I will move on to the fictional story. It is gripping, well woven into the historical events and believable. Primarily you follow four different families (one aristocrat, one bourgeois and two of the working class) through several generations. Halfway through I did stop and make some family charts so I could keep track of who was who. Characters are not cardboard figures. They mature; they change. They are composed of good and bad qualities. These characters are not introspectively analyzed; instead you watch what they do. The story is plot driven. I particularly grew to love two - first Eloise and then Tomas. One of them is a bit of a hero, but I loved it. Oh my gosh, the ending! I sat glued at the end.

I listened to the audiobook narrated by both Jane Wymark and Jonathan Keeble. Wymark did a fantastic job. Wonderful French and I laughed at the difference between her English and American accents. Both were great. It is just so funny to hear the stark difference between the two. She did men and women equally well. Her narration gets five stars. Jonathan Keeble's was just OK. When he tried to sound like a child or a woman I would laugh, until I got used to it. But good? No! Still, his narration doesn't wreck the story. I don't understand why they used two narrators. It is not that he took the male voices and she the female. It is not that he took the recent times and she the earlier. They alternated chapter by chapter. Maybe it was just too much to read for one person? This is a long whopper of a book.

The book flips around between different time periods, which usually just adds confusion, and it did make it harder to keep track of events and people, but I feel that by doing this it helped you to keep fresh in your mind how history impacts on current events. So, I didn't mind.

I really, really did like this book, but you better be interested in history if you choose to read the book. If history does interest you, then I recommend it. The history is presented in an interesting, comprehensive and easily understood manner. You will know Paris after reading this book.
Profile Image for Angela M .
1,309 reviews2,191 followers
August 23, 2014
I have never been to Paris, but if I ever get there I will be thinking about the ambitious and likable Monsieur Eiffel, my favorite real person who comes to life in this novel and Thomas Gascon, my favorite character.

I have been exposed to more French history than I'll ever remember but it was an enjoyable trip as the history comes to life through the stories of several families. Their stories unfold over the span of centuries from the 1200’s through 1960’s. They are working class people, bourgeois, and aristocrats and over the span of centuries, Rutherford cleverly intertwines their stories.

The political landscape is depicted at various times from the rule of King Louis IX all the way up to the German invasion of Paris and it’s liberation. The arts in Paris with the likes of Monet and Hemingway are here.

I loved the story of Thomas Gascon and his part in building the Eiffel Tower. His story was the most compelling to me and I felt that his character was the most developed and relatable, while I could not feel a major connection with so many other characters.

At times, I was a little confused since the story does not unfold in chronological order. It skips from one century to another and then back several centuries so for me the story didn’t flow. I’m not sure what this was meant to do. Since I can’t give it 3.5 stars, I have to round up to 4 for the clever way of connecting these families over the centuries.
Profile Image for Maine Colonial.
653 reviews174 followers
April 27, 2013
I remember reading Rutherfurd's first historical epic, Sarum, and being swept away by the story of Salisbury, England and its families through the centuries. Since then, Rutherfurd has written several more of these historical novels, about Russia, Ireland, London and New York.

Rutherfurd has developed a sort of formula for these novels. He takes a few families and follows their generations through the centuries. The families tend to be from varying levels of society, so that their stories can give a fuller view of life in the particular location of the story. Different family members will be involved in some way with key events in the location's history, and quite often the families have interactions or relationships with each other throughout the history.

In this book, the families are the highborn de Cygnes; the Le Sourds, pitted against the de Cygnes again and again throughout the ages; the laborer/artisan Gascons; the commerce-minded Blanchards; the Jewish Jacobs. For some reason not clear to me, Rutherfurd has chosen to skip around in time, rather than follow a chronological order. Not only do you jump from one set of characters to another from chapter to chapter, you may jump forward or backward in time.

This jumping around makes it difficult to develop the characters. Just as you're starting to get a picture of one set of characters, the chapter ends. I suppose that's the tradeoff for a novel that spans centuries and that focuses on the history of the place. The place becomes the protagonist and all the humans become side characters. Well, OK, if that's the deal, then I can accept it if I love the treatment of the protagonist. But I can't say that I did. Paris did not come alive for me in this book.

The sweeping sociopolitical events and movements in French/Parisian history are handled in very broad strokes and in a labored and pedantic way. You get a clue as to the style right from the get-go, when the history of the Paris Commune is given to us by way of a turgid monologue delivered by a mother to her son. I know this background has to be provided somehow, but the way this read, I could imagine Rutherfurd's early draft saying "[insert history here]." I couldn't help but compare it to Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle, where there is also a lot of historical information that is told by way of conversations, or one character telling another the history. I had just been listening to the audiobook and a character, Jack Shaftoe, tells his horse (really) some fairly lengthy history and it was both entertaining and educational; a huge contrast to this book.

Interspersed with the broad-brush historical descriptions, Rutherfurd focuses in on some selected events in a more personal way. One of these is his focus on the building of the Eiffel Tower, and Thomas Gascon's work on both it and the Statue of Liberty that M. Eiffel designed and Parisians built as a gift to the United States. This was probably the most dynamic and lively part of the book, and Thomas Gascon the most dimensional character.

Unfortunately, that only tends to emphasize how paper-thin the characterization is in nearly all the other cases. People behave in ways that Rutherfurd lays no foundation for; presumably it's just convenient for his plot. The characters seem like dolls that Rutherfurd uses to act out his stories, not like real people. I just didn't care about any of them. That became painfully clear in the middle of the book, when there is a long chapter about a love/social position triangle. I wasn't invested in the characters, because they hadn't been brought to life. The same is true for almost the entire 20th century, when Rutherfurd inexplicably plunges the story into a ridiculous soap opera, complete with love triangles, an adoptee searching for her birth family, sexual intrigue and so on.

What's more, most of this could have been placed almost anywhere. Paris is just window dressing. When a character goes to work as a model for Coco Chanel, we read virtually nothing about her work or Chanel. In other words, our protagonist, the city of Paris, is depicted as superficially as the human characters. An exception to this is when we arrive at World War II. Suddenly, the story becomes very Parisian and far less superficial. It's a shame the reader has to wait until the last 100 pages of the book for this transformation.

It's disappointing that Rutherfurd managed to write such a lackluster book about one of the world's most fascinating cities. I would have given the book 1.5 stars, rounded down to 1 star, but because the World War II story was good, I'm rounding up to 2 stars.

Disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book.
Profile Image for Kristin.
965 reviews84 followers
April 27, 2013
I had some mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I didn't really like how he jumped back and forth through time instead of following a more linear timeline (as he does in his other books). On the other hand, I did like that the timeline he kept returning to was the period of the Belle Epoque through World War II, which is really the time when Paris was becoming the city we know today. However, I didn't understand why he didn't start earlier in time than the briefest glimpse of the 1200s. In a later chapter he briefly mentioned a former Roman settlement. That was certainly pre-1200! It seemed also like he made an effort to avoid the historical commentary that is his custom except for a brief 1 or 2 page intro. I thought that this would be a good change, leaving more time for the stories of the characters, but instead I felt like I missed a lot of information. The entire novel seemed to assume a certain knowledge of French history on the reader's part (particularly since so much was entirely skipped), and while I am more well-versed in history than many people, I struggled to place the characters in the correct setting. I only remember a few kings being mentioned (predominantly Philip IV, Charles IX, and Louis XIV-XVI), things like the Commune weren't witnessed firsthand by characters but instead talked about by their descendants, and though the epilogue took place in the pivotal year of 1968, there's really no indication that anything is out of the ordinary. Really the book wasn't bad, but I expected so much more. Enjoyable, but not earth-shattering.

Also, see this review for lots of other points I agree with:
Profile Image for Matt.
3,821 reviews12.9k followers
May 26, 2014
Rutherfurd returns to offer another multi-generational view at one of the world's great cities, using his popular formula to capture the wonders of Paris. The story expands from the lineage of three families: the le Sourds, de Cygnes, and Renards, Rutherfurd . While it must be said that the book is not for the weak of concentration, its tales do link together, loosely, one from the other. Peppered with the essentials of a decent piece of fiction, the reader experiences love, loss, and betrayal, with sides of war, triumph, and tribulation. While not told in chronological order, the dedicated reader will pick up the thread of the narration and piece the larger story together, with its rich nuances. Touching on some historical happenings to help with the setting and plot advancement, Rutherfurd offers his own spin on many of the events that touched Paris and the world as a whole while injecting his own interpretation of events and outcomes. Well worth a read for history fanatics, but not to be sandwiched between other beach fare over the summer months.

The central story spans from just after the Franco-Prussian War (circa 1870) through to the politically tumultuous 1968, with a thorough social and political commentary woven into a fictitious story line. With great historical cameo appearances by the likes of Eiffel, Monet, Hemingway, Chanel, and de Gaulle, Rutherfurd melds fiction to reality as he places his characters in the middle of world events, as though they played decisive roles. With flashback chapters that explain some of the key happenings through the centuries, Paris' history is seen as a full and complex part of the modern city. Such a rich collection of inter-woven stories says more about the city than its structural and political development and more about the greater story than many European cities can tell in their development over the centuries. Rutherfurd is the modern master at such tales, picking up the reins left by Mitchener in his historical classics. A treat for any dedicated reader whose passion for history is coupled with an interest in great fictional tales.

Admittedly, as I chose to go the audiobook route, I found myself lost at some points of the book, unable to easily refer to the family tree Rutherfurd offers up in his paper and electronic book versions. That said, the power of the story's setting and plot were not lost on me. While used to reading Rutherfurd as a chronological set of tales, this one took a little more concentration and made knowing the foundational and tangential story lines a little more important. Rutherfurd posits that Paris was more of an artistic centre for the world than other European locales, fuelled by the cultural, political, and social revolutions that occurred around the same time. Paris was often home to the seat of government of a country with strong military aspirations, but who ended up needing rescuing at every turn, at least after the waning Napoleonic era. With a light Follet flavour in the multi-generational approach, Rutherfurd keeps company with few others who are able to balance such a feat while not overlooking any generation's importance to the larger story.

Kudos, Mr Rutherfurd for a highly entertaining (and complex) look at Europe's most culturally influenced cities. You attention to detail leaves much to the reader's imagination as they push through the plethora of history on offer.
Profile Image for Stephan Benzkofer.
Author 2 books12 followers
July 1, 2013
Paris is a multi-generational, multi-century novel set in and around the city. I wish I could give this book two ratings: a two AND a four. As a travel book, which is what it was for a recent trip to Paris for my wife and me, it was nearly perfect. It relates great gobs of Parisian history in easy-to-swallow bites. The characters walk through the same streets you walk through and go to the same sites you do. How was life at Versailles for those thousands of noblemen and women? What was it like to build the Eiffel Tower? What was the anti-Protestant crackdown like? Great descriptions of all of them. Definitely worth a four. I would recommend it to anybody going to Paris, recently returned or even someone who wants to remember it like they were just there.

Unfortunately, while the author's history research is admirable, his writing leaves much to be desired; some is just downright painful. Part of the problem he faces is in sustaining any dramatic arc or tension as he skips over centuries and jumps generations. That is a tough assignment for anyone, and Mr. Rutherford doesn't pull it off. But much of the problem is self-inflicted. Too many paragraphs describe how all the characters are perfectly content. Too many of the potentially interesting dramatic moments happen off-screen. Too many famous people make cameo appearances. My wife aptly described it as a Magic Treehouse book for adults after the characters ran into Monet, Eiffel, Chanel and Hemingway, to name a few.

This was a light, entertaining read, perfect for touring Paris, but not much of a novel.
14 reviews1 follower
May 21, 2013
I feel like, to really dislike a book, I should explain why. Been a big fan of Rutherfurd since I picked up London, then Russka, Sarum, Princes of Ireland, New York, and the rest. All are great, 4 or 5 star books. Paris, gets one, based on the disappointment I felt. What he did was forget what made those other books great. Paris has a lot of great, great history, exciting stuff that would be fascinating to read about.......and he barely mentions. Instead, he got completely wrapped up with the romance part. Napoleon......mentioned, but not the typical chapter with a main character in one of the Little General's battles. The guillotine, mentioned, actually the best chapter of the book.....but only 20 pages. Black Plague......not touched on. World War I.....touched on, but only as a time setting for a romance. See a theme? This is hardly historical fiction; it's a series of romance stories set in Paris. That's why I gave it one star. Not a total deviation from what makes Rutherfurd's other books great, but too much of one to make it even qualify as decent, in my opinion.
Profile Image for Jaidee.
605 reviews1,205 followers
April 12, 2014
4.5 stars....a wonderful languorous journey through Parisian history told from the perspective of four multigenerational families.....simple and elegant writing made this a joy to read.
Profile Image for Helga.
965 reviews152 followers
September 29, 2022
Going back and forth between the 13th and 20th centuries and portraying six diverse families, Paris is a tale of love, passion, sacrifice, greed, betrayals and secrets.
A brilliantly told story, with a blend of real and fictional characters, Paris chronicles wars and the calms in between.
Throughout the book we come across many familiar faces and a few unknown ones; we salute Chanel, Hemingway, Monet, Eiffel and pass by many familiar boulevards and buildings.
Profile Image for Cheryl.
464 reviews606 followers
August 2, 2013
If this book was 300-400 pages long, I would have given it a 5-star rating. Unfortunately midway, it became a bit boring and confusing--though it did pick up a bit towards the end.

Rutherford's command of historical narrative is appealing. The Eiffel Tower construction, the French Revolution, the era of Realism, the Inquisition, are all included within the dialogue between noble families and the bourgeoise, the Catholic-Protestant divide evident as the plot steams.

It is a great historical read if you really want to experience the culture of old Paris (and parts of Europe). You really do see 18th century Paris in every chapter and almost every section of this book. You encounter artists and creative minds like Chopin, Monet and Hemingway. Also interesting, how the Impressionists are introduced: the scene set in the park with artists at work behind their canvases.

My favorite parts were the landscape descriptions and the imagery of culture and architecture--like King Louis XIV's palace:

"Great windows down one side, gilded mirrors opposite, a tunnel-arched ceiling from which the massive row of crystal chandeliers hung in galactic splendor. The almost endless polished expanse of parquet floor gleamed like a lake under the sun."

Still, you have a sense that too much was undertaken. At one point you're in the year 1875, then 1665 and then 1936. One minute you're with noblemen, the other, you're dealing with the Gestapo. As a result, you weave in and out of multi-generational families, you meet so many characters that it gets confusing at times and the characters become forgettable.

The structure is what I had some problems with. If only the novel had placed characters like Marie, Roland, Hadley, Marc, and the builder, Thomas Gascon at the center--even while introducing a slew of supporting characters. Gascon for example, makes a meaningful appearance in the beginning, then appears at uneventful spurts throughout, only to reappear towards the end.
Profile Image for Emiliya Bozhilova.
1,366 reviews224 followers
August 15, 2023
Много приятна и увличаща градска/ семейна сага. Париж и няколко семейства се разгръщат през вековете. Ръдърфорд прави панорамна историческа и географска парижка обиколка от средновековието до 1968 г. Портретът на френската столица е с приятни и ненатрапчиви детайли. Усещането за съответните епохи е осезаемо и вълнуващо. Приятни и ненатрапчиви са и героите. От тях обаче очаквах много, много повече. Симпатяги са, но са просто бегли очертания и липсва усещането за плътност и реалност. На моменти историите бяха досадно запълнени с излишни случки, които преспокойно можеше да се съкратят. Добър атмосферен сериал би се получил от тези две дебели томчета.

Profile Image for Marialyce (on our way to Venice).
2,038 reviews709 followers
July 17, 2013
Awesomely brilliant! ...and to think I was going to pass this up because it was a big, long book! Just goes to show that you can't tell a book by not only its cover but also by its length.

This wonderful novel portrays a number of families through various centuries and the effect that living in and around Paris had on their lives and conversely the city on them. The history of the city and the fact that it is often referred to as the City of Light is written of so lovingly and with a keen sense of Paris' history to its people and to the world by the author. (BTW Mr Rutherfurd, you and I will meet again as this is the first novel of yours that I have read and I intend to read others that you have written.) It takes time to read, but every turn of the page brings you closer to the city and the people who made that city what it is today. It was well worth the number of hours I spent engrossed in its pages. Now, if I could only travel there....
Profile Image for Joe.
11 reviews1 follower
June 22, 2013
In four decades or so of voracious reading, I have never once been inspired to pre-order a book. Until, that is, this previous winter when I found out the release date for Paris. I sprained a finger mouse-clicking my way to Amazon to make sure my copy was downloaded the minute midnight of April 23rd arrived. Given how much I'd enjoyed Rutherfurd's previous work and the subject he was tackling in this, his latest novel, I knew I'd be in for hours of...dare I say it..."delightful" reading.

The respect I have for Edward Rutherfurd and the enjoyment I've experienced reading his work probably accounts for the second star. I was very deeply disappointed with Rutherfurd's effort here. Before I wrote this review, I thought perhaps that it was unfair to judge Paris against, say London or Sarum. Even if not judged against the quality of Rutherfurd's other books, though, in a vacuum Paris would have still received very low marks.

The book suffers serious flaws in three areas: execution, prose and character development.

Instead of a narrative that proceeds chronologically from some point in Paris' early history, Rutherfurd jumps between periods in the city's distant past and the turn of the 20th century. The result is that the arc of Paris' history becomes somewhat choppy and fractured. I'm not adverse to Rutherfurd trying a new approach, as long as it's not at the expense of the story he's trying to tell. In his previous books, there's a certain momentum which builds as the story progresses through the centuries. Even though they may take place decades, or centuries apart, characters and storylines build on, and compliment, those from past eras. Paris does not have this flow.

About 45% of the book takes place in the period between 1875 and 1925, which in my opinion doesn't do justice to the very long and colorful history of the city. As I read, I found myself wondering if, during the book's writing, Rutherfurd experienced some sort of crisis over what form the novel would take. There are many scenes in the turn-of-the-century part of the book in which characters guide each other around the city, describing the city's landmarks and their history. Perhaps the first versions of Paris were so large that the author had to excise period chapters in favor of this somewhat wooden exposition. If that's the case, then I wish he'd have split Paris into two books or just written the book he seems to have wanted to write, focusing on turn of the century Paris.

I was amazed at how poor (sometimes shockingly so) the quality of some the writing was. An illustrative example is Rutherfurd's appalling overuse of the word "delight" in its various forms. The frequency with which the words "delight", "delighted" and "delightful" were crammed onto pages (and sometimes single paragraphs) was genuinely cringe-worthy. Guests arrive for dinner and have a good time because "everything was a delight". Characters' journey through the pages "delighted" with one and other ad nauseum. Whether it be a meal, a park, newly moved in neighbors next door, it is a "delight". The overuse of this word typifies a sort of laziness one doesn't typically encounter in a writer of Rutherfurd's immense talent. One character walks through a park "quite alone" on an evening "quite pleasant" and "quite dark". This lack of effort permeates the prose. At one soiree, everyone has a good time because "everything was wonderful". The Edward Rutherfurd I admire just doesn't tell me it's wonderful, he tells me what makes "everything" wonderful.

I've read negative reviews of the writer's work as a whole which focus on the lack of character development. I usually find the opposite to be true. One of the things I most enjoy about Rutherfurd's other books is the depth of character he develops within the confines of the vignette of the time period he's writing about. In London or New York, for example, many times I was genuinely sad to see the story about a given time period end because I had to say goodbye to the characters I'd become concerned about over the previous eighty to a hundred pages. I can't remember one instance in Paris where I felt anything more than a mild interest in the characters described in the book.
By and large, there are no villains in this book. The chief antagonists here seem to be the whims of royalty, illness, war and the distinctions of class. The absence of conflict between characters in the book leads to a very limited sense of drama, which results in not really caring too much about anyone in the book. The aforementioned 45% of the book is mainly peopled by characters that have the means and the time to serve as tour guides to the city. Reading the characters' descriptions of history, politics and various schools of art felt like sitting in a lecture. Yes, the author has in the past used this method to provide context to the events in the story, but he has hitherto done so in much more elegant fashion than in Paris.

These folks, who find each other and their city "wonderful", "quite pleasant" and, of course "delightful" lend an air of insipid, cloying wonderfulness to the whole story. Life is so grand that any minute I expected to turn the page and witness parades of unicorns and butterflies proceeding down the Champs Elysees under clouds of cotton candy on which sit cherubs..delightedly..looking on. They seem so self-satisfied in their Frenchness; their lot in life as Parisians. I would not begrudge them their smugness if only Rutherfurd would tell us why it's so great to be French, and living in Paris.

Somewhere along the line, I think something in Edward Rutherfurd's organization broke down. I'm amazed that certain passages in this book got through the author, the author's assistant, the author's friends and family, the author's agent and the author's editor at Doubleday. While I'm too much of a fan of Rutherfurd's to believe he mailed it in, I have trouble understanding how someone..anyone..familiar with the man's work didn't suggest putting this project completely aside and having a look at it with fresh eyes three or four months down the road.

All this said..I will probably be furiously clicking to Amazon in another couple years to pre-order his next book...which I hope is entitled Paris (This Time I Really Mean It).
Profile Image for Annette.
798 reviews382 followers
April 30, 2018
The story intertwines the lives of characters from four different families and social classes moving back and forth in time across centuries, bringing backdrop of French history, its class distinction, and an insight on building such icons as the Statue of Liberty and Eiffel Tower.

Roland de Cygne comes from aristocratic family. He is a descendant from D’Artagnan, famous Musketeer, and hero Roland. At the age of fifteen not knowing his direction in life, he is being reminded of the 13th century Roland’s story – returning home to run the estate. Few years later, he is asked to attend dinner with Blanchard family. At first he is not comfortable mingling with bourgeoisie class, but his life takes a turn he has never expected.

Jules Blanchard is a well-set man of a solid family fortune. He has two sons and one daughter. His younger son, Marc, is an artist who takes part in a new artistic movement Art Nouveau, at the time seen by some as vulgar, especially aristocrats.

Jacques Le Sourd comes from humble beginnings, embodiment of French Revolution and the Paris Commune. His father is shot by a soldier whose name his mother traces and reveals to him. Now he wants to revenge his father.

Thomas Gascon comes from dangerous slums behind Montmartre. He is an iron-worker taking part in creating first the Statue of Liberty, then the world’s most recognizable icon – the Eiffel Tower under a watchful eye of a famous engineer Monsieur Gustave Eiffel.

The story starts in the late 19th century with a young boy named Roland de Cygne, then it travels back in time to the second part of the 13th century revealing the story of Roland de Cygne who dreamed of becoming a Temple Knight. Instead he is pushed by his family to become a priest, as his older brother will take over the estate. Accident happens and with the death of his older brother, he is called back home to take over the estate.

The book moves with the stories of the families across the centuries, from 19th and 20th centuries, and back to 13th and 14th centuries.

It is well-written and through the characters the reader gets to experience the atmosphere of Paris' streets, its arts and the wars it fought. However, it might be overwhelming for some and not to their liking with all those characters from present and past centuries. I think the author could have finished this 800 page book on a bit higher note by finishing it earlier. Some events within the last 200 pages were ok, and for me the book would have made a better impression without them. Nevertheless, I still rate it as a 5 star book.

Profile Image for Holly Weiss.
Author 3 books120 followers
April 9, 2013
Edward Rutherfurd is undoubtedly the reigning master of the multi-period epic novel. Paris: The Novel showcases his impeccable research and narrative talent. This sweeping novel covers 700 years of one of the most famous global cities. Paris's well-deserved fascination is magnificently illuminated. Triumphant as the city's architecture and culture, the book is a propulsive march through the geography, society and history of Paris.

We follow a few families from 1261 and the building of Notre Dame Cathedral to the student revolt of 1968. Thus we view Paris through the eyes of the people who walked its streets, viewed its art, fought its wars, debated its philosophers and constructed its monuments. Their stories and relationships with the city come alive. Why do we associate plaster of Paris, French onion soup and the greatest wines in the world with the city? Rutherfurd tells us with each meticulously written human story.

The main player in the story is Paris itself. We learn about the building of the Eiffel tower, the Moulin Rouge, the impressionist painters and poets, the Palace of Versailles, the violence of the French Revolution, the couture clothing industry and countless more French associations. Paris's coat of arms contains a ship with the city's Latin motto," Whatever the storm, the ship sails on." Your visit to Paris will be clear sailing with splendid views.

Brimming with historical detail and intellectually stimulating, the book delivers the human experience of the great city through absolutely enjoyable storytelling. "Especially at times of war and upheaval--there should be people of culture and humanity to protect our heritage." Paris: The Novel does just that.

I thank the Amazon Vine program for supplying the advance review copy.
32 reviews3 followers
July 19, 2013
I have read two of his other books, "The Princes of Ireland" and "The Rebels of Ireland" loved both of them and I am enjoying "Paris" even more. I plan to read his other books as well.
They are rich historical novels. Wish that we could have learned our history in school from people like Rutherford.
Profile Image for Jorge.
253 reviews343 followers
December 24, 2016
“París bien vale una novela”.

Un libro cuyo objetivo es darnos a conocer la historia, a través de ocho siglos, de una de las ciudades que en diversos momentos de la historia ha ocupado un lugar de preminencia en la civilización occidental. La narración es muy amena, interesante y de fácil lectura, una especie de clase de historia novelada, aunque tal vez le hizo falta algo para terminar de concretar en una obra monumental.

Este autor Inglés contemporáneo llamado Edward Rutherfurd (1948) es conocido como el iniciador de la novela llamada intergeneracional y seguramente le requirió un esfuerzo gigantesco de organización tanto intelectual como de documentación para poder concretar este original proyecto.

La obra me parece que además de original está muy bien ideada y estructurada, de tal forma que logra su objetivo de describirnos la evolución de la ciudad de París desde el siglo XIII hasta el XX. Para esto utiliza como hilos conductores las historias de seis familias disímbolas en condición social, ideología, religión, aspiraciones, etc. La historia transcurre a través de varias generaciones de estas familias, asentadas todas ellas en París y de esta manera asistimos al devenir de sus vidas que ocurren paralelamente a los grandes acontecimientos de la ciudad luz.

La narración nos hace testigos de los grandes movimientos sociales, de las grandes construcciones que ahora son un emblema de la ciudad, de las luchas religiosas, de las rivalidades y guerras con otros países, de las costumbres y las convenciones sociales de cada época, así como de las diversas manifestaciones culturales y artísticas que han conformado el París de nuestros días. También nos lleva por las calles de la ciudad, por sus avenidas, sus monumentos, sus jardines, sus castillos y sus diversas construcciones históricas, sin dejar de lado la sordidez de sus barrios bajos. Todo esto lo hace con tal detalle que a veces nos podemos transportar a esas calles y a esos tiempos.

Especial importancia tiene el relato que se nos hace de los diferentes gobiernos y de los personajes que forjaron la historia de la ciudad luz y por extensión de Francia. Durante la dilatada narración aparecen fugazmente algunos personajes históricos como Robespierre, Monet, el Cardenal Richelieu, Hemingway, Coco Chanel y algunos otros distinguidos habitantes de esa ciudad.

Como se mencionó, la novela es muy original, está muy bien estructurada y nos proporciona información bastante interesante sustentada en las historias intergeneracionales que se tejen a lo largo del libro; sin embargo también presenta algunas limitaciones de profundidad y desarrollo, tal vez esto se deba a la vastedad del tiempo que el autor trató de atrapar en una sola obra.

Pareciera que algo no acabó de cuajar en el desarrollo de las historias de las seis familias que fungen como guía de la obra; en ocasiones pierden fuerza y los personajes se desvanecen en el inmenso bosque histórico que el autor crea acerca de una de las ciudades de mayor tradición y abolengo en el mundo occidental y que Rutherfurd trata de abarcar de la mejor manera posible.

No es cuestión menor mantener la tensión narrativa en una historia que abarca ocho siglos, pero se reconoce el esfuerzo, el talento y la imaginación de este autor, características que fueron suficientes para proporcionarme horas y horas de goce.
Profile Image for Scott Rhee.
1,889 reviews74 followers
February 9, 2014
The oddly beautiful metal structure known by the world as the Eiffel Tower appropriately bookends the oddly beautiful novel “Paris” by Edward Rutherford and also serves to be a metaphor for the city itself. The tower, like the city itself, was a dream that many did not think would ever get past the planning stages, and when it did, it faced so much scrutiny and criticism that it was considered a laughingstock. Paris’s tumultuous history---a history of warring haves and have-nots, nobles and peasants, sacred and profane---was also an almost-unrealized dream, of sorts. The history of Paris is replete with the embarrassing and the bloody but also the brave and the humane. Rutherford deftly captures this spirit of Paris in his phenomenal epic novel.

While Rutherford uses actual historical events and figures as backdrops and characters, the six fictional families he writes about are used to depict the lives of everyday Parisians and the common struggles that Parisians faced throughout its long history.

*Gascons: The novel begins during the period known as the Belle Epoque, the latter-half of the 19th century, during the construction of the Eiffel Tower. Young Thomas works his way from construction worker to engineer, while trying to protect his younger rambunctious brother, Luc, from himself.

*de Cygne: A family of nobility with roots to Louis IX, the de Cygnes have always had a complicated place in history. Young Roland enters the 20th century facing the new socialism that holds no place for nobles. He also must battle his own anti-Semitism, a trait that has plagued his family for centuries with serious consequences.

*Le Sourd: Young Jacques has been taught from an early age to hate the nobility in general, but he specifically detests the de Cygne family for wrongs committed by them generations ago. A socialist by decree and an anarchist at heart, Jacques vows to destroy the de Cygne family, no matter the cost.

*Renard: a British Protestant family that has made France their home, the Renards are forever foreigners in their own country. James Fox, a sly lawyer living in London, has eyes on a better, richer life in Paris that would come by marrying the daughter of the aristocratic Jules Blanchard.

*Blanchard: a devout Catholic family that has worked itself from meager beginnings to the nouveau riche family it has become in the 20th century. Young Marc, one of three siblings, is the self-imposed “black sheep”, who has opted for a starving artist’s life spent at the Moulin Rouge and bedding whores.

*Jacob: A Jewish family that has seen its share of tragedy through the ages, the Jacobs, unfortunately, will have to endure more in the 20th century.

“Paris” is one of those large, epic novels that were in fashion decades ago with authors like Margaret Mitchell and James Michener. Sadly, they aren’t nearly as fashionable today, perhaps due to our “sound-bite” culture and societal short attention spans, but “Paris” reminds those of us who love reading why we love reading. For some of us, traveling to Paris, France may never be an actuality, for whatever reason, but diving into the vast narrative of Rutherford’s novel and befriending the wonderful members of the fictional Blanchard family, the Gascons, the de Cygnes, the Renards, the Le Sourds, and the Jacobs is the next best thing.
Profile Image for Samantha.
Author 17 books350 followers
March 27, 2015
An exciting, complex adventure through French history, Paris kept me captivated for over 800 pages - or rather what ended up being an entire month's worth of audiobook listening time. This certainly would have been 5 stars if I had read it rather than listening. Finding the family tree on Edward Rutherfurd's website helped me keep track of the centuries worth of people and their connections, but also gave me some spoilers.

The noble family of the De Cygnes, the Le Sourds who descend from criminals, the bourgeois Renards and Blanchards, Jewish Jacobs, and working class Gascons all come together to form an intricate family history to compliment the ongoing drama of Parisian history.

From the burning of the Templars to the liberation of Paris and the end of World War II, Rutherfurd creates characters that pull the reader into their era. Interesting historical tidbits are continuously weaved into the story - definitely a big plus to me. I remember being disappointed when the author's London felt like a series of short stories, but Paris does not feel that way. It was still jarring to be captivated by a storyline or person only to have the novel shift to events a century earlier or later, but the ties of betrayal, revenge, and a romance or two tied everything together.

I could feel that one family had a right to their negative feelings toward another, but then another secret from the past would be revealed and change my thinking. Family feuds built on half-truths or outright lies, denials of feelings because of differences in class, and abandonment due to strict adherence to societal expectations all cause ripples through time and affect much more than the current generation.

Reading a book that covers several centuries, I knew that I would read about the death of characters, yet I was still touched by each one and was sad to see them go.

I have a few more Rutherfurd books on my shelf and I feel more inclined to move them up the TBR after listening to this one.
Profile Image for Negin.
630 reviews150 followers
April 23, 2017
I always know that a book has touched me when I continually think back on the characters. This is a story of a few families in Paris through centuries of time. It was more than 800 pages, but I didn’t get bored at all. Also, I normally get overwhelmed with too many names, but that wasn’t a problem here. The only thing that I didn’t care too much for was all the jumping around through time. I would have preferred it had the book been written in more of a chronological order. I especially loved the parts about the building of the Eiffel Tower.

1888: The Eiffel Tower under construction

1889: Hosting the World's Fair the main attraction was the newly finished Eiffel Tower. Its arch served as the entryway way to the expo.

You may like this book if you enjoy historical fiction. I look forward to reading his book on London as well as maybe a few others.

Some of my favorite quotes:

“However much you may fall in love, do not waste that love on a woman who is not considerate in return.”

“When you marry,” the priest had said, “before you take any action, think first how it will feel to your wife. Consider her feelings before your own. If you and your wife both do this for each other, you are on the road to a happy marriage.”
Profile Image for Janelle.
1,218 reviews168 followers
September 8, 2022
Another excellent historical novel by Edward Rutherfurd. The story of Paris is filled with plenty of interesting history and as usual follows a group of families from different classes and lifestyles across the centuries. There’s always someone close to specific events in history from the building of the Eiffel Tower, the revolution and the world wars and of course much more. Plenty of references to art and literature, even a visit to Monet at Giverny. The only problem was that rather than do it all in chronological order (I’m pretty sure all his previous novels I’ve read were) this one jumps around in time a bit and for an 800p novel that’s makes it a bit confusing. Still a pleasure.
Profile Image for Lisa.
129 reviews13 followers
June 18, 2013
I like the concept of this book, but the execution was kind of annoying after a while. Rutherfurd attempts to teach the reader about the history of Paris through a tapestry of family histories. He gets the history across and does succeed in weaving a pretty interesting plot. What bothered me was the way he mixed in his little history lessons. Apparently every character in the book doubled as a lecturer. At random times in the story, different individuals would launch into detailed explanations about the history of Paris, France, art, architecture, etc. in the way that pretty much nobody does in normal conversation. I appreciate all the facts that were sprinkled throughout the book and did learn a lot, but the result of the presentation made me kind of hate the people in the story I was supposed to like. If I'm going to be given a lecture, at least make it believable. Put it into the narrative somehow - don't make all the characters sound like pretentious, unemployed Liberal Arts majors who can only carry on to their bored friends because they never did anything else with their degrees.
Profile Image for Lianne.
Author 6 books98 followers
February 4, 2016
This is the second novel by Edward Rutherfurd that I've read but I was greatly looking forward to it because he does such a wonderful job in portraying the history and culture of a city. I was fortunate to be approved of a galley to this novel via NetGalley.

Unlike Russka where each of the stories set in the different periods more or less were unrelated to each other (from what I recall), this novel has a set number of characters & families that the reader follows over the course of most of the novel. It’s a welcomed change because it helps ground the reader acquaint themselves with the events happening in Paris during whatever period in history the chapter is in.

Paris really comes alive in this novel and stands as quite a character of its own in the story. There’s not a dull moment in the story and there’s some really wonderful passages and moments throughout the span of centuries. My French history is a little rusty but I felt it covered all of the major events with such clarity and scope.

Overall Paris is just such an experience to read. It’s hard to get into detail about this novel because there’s just so many character and historical events covered, one has to just experience it for his or herself to understand. I highly recommend it!

My complete review of the novel was originally posted at eclectictales.com: http://www.eclectictales.com/blog/201...
Profile Image for Overbooked  ✎.
1,535 reviews
November 3, 2015
A great read if you are curious about the history of Paris. Rutherfurd, as usual, narrates through the generations of only a few families (often interrelated). The scope of the work (the history of the city from its beginning as a little roman settlement until WWII liberation) is vast and an ambitious task for the author who, to keep the book in one volume, necessarily has limited the story to well-known events and few characters.

Although I wasn’t too happy with the author’s history lesson tone at the beginning of the book, I found the second part of the novel the most engrossing and hard to put down. I thoroughly enjoyed this book even if some parts felt like a lecture and I would have liked less sentimentality and more information on less known periods and facts about this great city. On the other hand, I can see why this book is loved by many and has the potential to become an all-time favourite. 3 ½ stars rounded up
Profile Image for Ace.
434 reviews22 followers
June 28, 2015
Edward Rutherfurd has created a good story based around central Paris, it's people and it's culture. Because I have just been to Paris a couple of months ago and can relate to some of the areas and buildings and general descriptions of life in Paris, I am giving this 3 stars. Personally it was a bit long for my ability to concentrate and stay interested in all of the characters.
Profile Image for David.
Author 18 books348 followers
September 10, 2020
I really like Edward Rutherfurd's big bloated historical epics. He has a formula: take a city with a long history, introduce a few families, and follow their triumphs and tragedies across the centuries, while letting the same themes echo over and over again. At the end, we can be satisfied with how the 20th century descendants of the characters we met back in the Middle Ages have fared.

Paris does not go back as far as Sarum, which started literally in the Paleolithic. I did expect Rutherfurd to maybe start us at the town's Roman founding. But the six families around whom he builds his interwoven tales this time don't go back further than the medieval period. And the novel skips back and forth, beginning during La Belle Époque of the Third Republic, and then jumping back to the building of Le Notre-Dame de Paris, and continuing to move back and forth until the storyline enters the 20th century and stays there.

Our six families this time are the Le Sourds, the de Cygnes, the Renards, the Blanchards, the Gascons, and the Jacobs. As with Rutherfurd's previous books, these six families will interact, often in the same way their ancestors did, without ever realizing it. The Le Sourds, for example, begin as criminals, with the elder Le Sourd being the leader of Paris's medieval "thieves guild." On a whim, he befriends a young aristocrat named de Cygne, only to be betrayed by him and sent to hang, but not before telling his son to never trust the nobility. Centuries later, a de Cygne orders the death of one of the Le Sourds during one of Paris's many small uprisings, causing his young son to swear vengeance against de Cygne's son, only for the two of them, as old men, to join forces against the Nazi occupation.

The Gascons, likewise, are introduced to us by way of a young mason working on the Notre-Dame cathedral. Centuries later, his descendant helps build the Eiffel Tower, and also becomes a partisan against the Nazis.

The Renards and the Blanchards (bourgeois merchants and monarchist patriots, respectively) get relatively less page count, and the Jacobs, representing Paris's much-oppressed Jews, get only occasional cameos, usually to suffer whatever oppression is happening to the Jews this century.

It's a dynastic soap opera filled with historical trivia. Sometimes the family drama steals the spotlight from the history, and sometimes the characters are just there to show us what's happening in Paris this decade. As with his previous books, Rutherfurd will give some generations multiple chapters to tell a long, involved story, and others get skimmed over quickly. When it comes to World War II, though, I think he tied together all the familial storylines together in a very satisfying way, almost as if this was the climactic final gathering. It was quite an improvement over Russka, which allowed the Dark Ages and the medieval period and the Napoleonic era to go on and on, and then zoomed through the 20th century. Paris ends in 1968, with only a single named character left to focus on.

Rutherfurd clearly does a lot of research, but a lot of it feels like a tourist's view of Parisian history, hitting all the highlights and the major attractions but never delving too deeply. It's a bit cheesy (especially the sex scenes) and occasionally a bit purple, but I still loved it. A big, bloated historical soap opera with much love for the City of Lights. I wanted to give it 5 stars, but it isn't really "amazing," which is what Goodreads says 5 stars means. It's not a great novel, but the audiobook was over 30 hours long and I was never bored. I can always count on Rutherfurd to keep me reliably entertained for centuries.
Author 21 books6 followers
June 9, 2013
Paris is a dense and beautifully-written book that tackles the history of The City of Lights. It is a massive novel that follows the fortunes of six French families from the 13th to 20th centuries as it weaves a tale that captures all the major events of Paris. The de Cygne family are aristocrats who are almost wiped out by the terror of 1794. By contrast the Le Sourds are medieval pickpockets and thieves, who become fervent champions of the Jacobins during the French Revolution. The Renards are merchants and artisans. The Gascons are working class, the Blanchards the upper reaches of the bourgeoisie, while the Jacobs are a Jewish family who settled in Paris in the Middle Ages who converted to Christianity. All the families cross paths with one another over and over the centuries. There is romance and betrayal, courage and determination, marriage and affairs.

The central icon of the Eiffel Tower dominates in this novel, from the outrage when it was built to someone cutting the cables so that Hitler couldn’t go up it. Edward Rutherfurd handles this epic, sweeping historical novel with masterful ease. This is a spellbinding multi-generational novel that will make you fall in love with Paris – even if you have never been there. And if you have been to Paris, you will look anew at the streets you have walked. This is a book that I intend to re-read because it is densely packed with so much fascinating information. Edward Rutherfurd has certainly done his research!
Profile Image for M.M. Strawberry Library & Reviews.
4,226 reviews344 followers
May 16, 2019
Like with New York, the author did something a bit different here. The family trees are back, but the chronology is not linear as it has been in his other books. The bulk of the tale happens between the 1870's and 1940's (this part of the story is in chronological order in itself) and then we break away from this main story to go back further, as far back as the 13th century. This other thread is also told chronologically, so we progress through both storylines.

At first I was confused, wondering why the author was following two different chronological threads, but as the story moved on, it became apparent why, as the second storyline had a few secrets that would have ruined the first storyline if they had been revealed too early.

All in all, it's another solid Rutherfurd book. If you like historical fiction that spans over centuries, as well as stories that follow the trials and tribulations of family lines through history, then you definitely want to check out this author - whether it be this book, or another one. (Personally, I recommend Russka)

4.5/5 stars.
Profile Image for Clemens Schoonderwoert.
1,119 reviews93 followers
December 28, 2021
Read this book in 2014, and its a standalone book about the history of Paris.

Set between the years AD 1261 until 1968, this story will bring many highlights and setbacks in the history of Paris.

Several families will meet with advantages and tribulations in a city that will grow through the centuries into the world most famous City of Light.

Quite a few events will brought to our attention, with the likes of Notre Dame, dangerous machinations of Cardinal Richelieu, from the glittering court of Versailles, to the violence of the French Revolution, and several more eventful moments will occur within this wonderful story about Paris and its history.

What is to follow is a fabulous story about Paris, told with verve by the author, and not to forget with impeccable research to make this tale about Paris as authentic as possible.

Highly recommended, for this is an astounding tale about the history of Paris, and that's why I like to call this book: "A Captivating Paris"!
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