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Paris Under Water: How the City of Light Survived the Great Flood of 1910

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  224 ratings  ·  36 reviews
In the winter of 1910, the river that brought life to Paris—the Seine—became a force of destruction in just a matter of hours. Torrential rainfall saturated the soil, and faulty engineering created conditions that soon drowned Parisian streets, homes, businesses, and museums, thrusting the City of Light into a battle with the elements. Given the Parisians' history of deep- ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published January 5th 2010 by St. Martin's Press
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Average rating 3.74  · 
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 ·  224 ratings  ·  36 reviews

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Start your review of Paris Under Water: How the City of Light Survived the Great Flood of 1910
I love the idea of reading about history. Typically, I hate reading historically accurate books. They are just so. Dry. It is painful, really. And, if they are not painfully dry, I start to question their accuracy...and the author's intellect. This is not one of those books. I loved it. I feel so informed now!

I had no idea that Paris flooded regularly. It makes perfect sense, considering the water level and elevation in question, I just never thought about it. Imagine my intrigue, then, when I f
Apr 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: true-story
I had no idea this event had happened—and apparently, it was news to the author, too, until 2005 while he was on a tour of the Paris sewers and saw photographs depicting the flood of 1910. Clearly-written and well-detailed account of how Parisians responded to the rising of the Seine that, from Jan. 21–28 of 1910, was higher than it had been in over 250 years. It's almost eerie to see the familiar landmarks surrounded by water, and you feel the frantic desperation of the people as you realize th ...more
Tim Robinson
Jul 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
And interest book from three perspectives. Firstly, a description of Paris in a decade when Paris was the most advanced city in the world. For instance, did you know that many factories, offices and even homes had compressed air piped in as a utility, like gas, water and electricity? Secondly, a description of the disaster itself. As the water rose, it not only displaced people but also crippled the advanced infrastructure (electricity, gas, telegraph lines, railways) that would be needed to coo ...more
Apr 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: french-theme
This is a well-researched and very readable account of the catastrophic flood in Paris in 1910. It takes the reader through the day-by-day escalation of the waters of the Seine and the resulting destruction throughout Paris and surrounding towns. It explains how the sewers and underground train tunnels brought the flood further inland than it could have gone on its own. The main story, though, is how the Parisians, overall, pulled together to get through the disaster. Photos of the flooding are ...more
Margaret Sankey
Jul 23, 2011 rated it liked it
In January, 1910, torrential rains sent a flood of Seine water through Paris, including the newly-built sewer and Metro underground systems. For an urban population already dislocated by Hausmann's city reconstruction and profoundly distrustful of the police, Catholic Church, city and national government and the army, relief efforts and the social upheaval intrinsic to natural disaster reveal the fault lines of Belle Epoque France.
John Weibull
Mar 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: disaster
This book was hard to put down. Mr. Jackson gives us a thoroughly researched book filled with fascinating anecdotes and tales of bravery under extreme circumstances. During the 1910 flooding the government of Paris responded quickly and efficiently to the crisis, managing to keep a horrific disaster from getting out of control, all without resorting to a declaration of martial law.
Kathleen McRae
Oct 01, 2016 rated it liked it
This book had some interesting sections but was a bit of a heavy read.
Feb 19, 2018 rated it liked it
I very rarely say this, but I wish that this event/book were turned into a movie. I think it would make a really powerful film.. a lesson on screen. "Unfortunately, when past memories fade, future dangers grow."
Dec 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Very interesting. I remember seeing the mark in the Conciergerie denoting the limit of the 1910 flood. That's in a basement though, and I didn't realize how far above normal water level it actually is.
Mar 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A thrilling easy to read account of only a month or so of horrific flooding and the slow recovery afterward. Already in 1910, Paris was counting on all its modern infrastructure to prevent flooding, when, in fact, the state of its infrastructure contributed to the severity of the flooding.
Diana Kullman
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
This book was listed as a reference for Tatiana De Rosnay's book, The Rain Watchers. I found it very educational!
Jul 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a very interesting narration of an historical event of which I was previously unaware. I learned a great deal more about the Seine and its environs.
I don’t know what possessed me to borrow this book from the library! If I wanted to read about natural disasters all I had to do was read the news: this is a week when Super Typhoon Hagupit displaced thousands of people in a mass evacuation and Brisbane is cleaning up after a super cell storm caused a damage bill of over $800 million, reviving memories of the 2011 floods when the Brisbane River burst its banks. Given that there are dozens of major cities around the world that are built on rivers ...more
Floods are scary. I am lucky to never have experienced one first hand and don't live in an area that is prone to such things. This flood occurred in the heart of a major European city and despite the lack of warning it is remarkable more people were not swept away. When the flood did come, the residents who survived used some good old ingenuity and resourcefulness to hold it together. The political backstory is insightful but not terribly dramatic. At the heart of it, a flood is my vision of the ...more
Jan 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010-read

Fascinating book. Also really well-paced throughly researched affair. The whole thing starts out with factors leading to the flood, and it reads just like a disaster movie where they establish exactly where everyone is and what they are doing as you know full well that disaster is going to strike. I only wish I had actually been to Paris before reading this, because I think it would make some of the geography he talks about more effective. But I had the general idea from pictures placed througho
Sep 27, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Read like a PhD thesis. Some parts were very interesting, but overall too "tight" a telling - a lot of repetition of activities through out the few days it covered. There's only so many ways you can say 'clean up continued' and keep it interesting. I would have enjoyed it with more specific-yet-varied stories and covering more days to to increase my enjoyment, but his afterword says not a lot of historical documents survived so I suppose he just didn't have the material to draw from. An interest ...more
Jan 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"Paris Under Water" is an excellently researched, beautifully informative read about a subject that has been lost in history and is clouded in myth and fables. As one of the few books written on the topic, the book speaks of the time leading up to the January 21-29, 1910 flood, including the importance of wars and disputes dating back forty or more years prior and ends it by brilliantly and smoothly connecting the devastating events to the outbreak and events of the German invasion of France in ...more
Nov 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: about-france
Reading this book hard on the heels of the destruction wrought by Hurrican Sandy was very illuminating. The "great flood" of Paris (shortly before the outbreak of WWI) had many reprecussions for that city and the nation. Even that long ago there was talk about how the destruction of the environment could have led to the disaster of 1910. A well researched, well written study of an important event in Paris' history.
Feb 28, 2013 rated it liked it
This book was well-written and extremely informative, but also extremely dry. The author went for a tone more academic than personal, and while I appreciate his dedication to facts (and also understand that there were not many existing accounts from ordinary Parisians of this time) I could have used a little more narrative flow. However, this is still an excellent piece of work, and a great addition to my disaster shelf!
Aug 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
I've studied Paris history for a while and until I heard about this book I never knew that Paris was inundated in January 1910. I enjoy books of this type because they bring together the social, cultural and political aspects of the time and weave them into a narrative that makes you feel you're right in Paris at the time of the flood.
Rosie Beck
Feb 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
A fascinating book on the flood in Paris in the winter of 1910. Days of rain and supersaturated soil caused the Seine to overflow by miles in each direction. The city leaders and the disparate-class, religion, wealth-Parisians rise to confront this assault on their beloved city. Wonderful.
Andrea Montan
Jun 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-france
This history book reads more like a novel because the author infuses personal stories with actual events. It is not just about the flood of 1910, but has commentary about other facets of French history and culture.
Jan 15, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: paris
Interesting read. Having worked on the Ile St-Germain in Issy-Les-Moulineaux, in a building right on the Seine where I watched the river flow fast and high in a normal winter, I could easily imagine the destruction there.
Jan 21, 2014 rated it liked it
A very thorough account of the flood and its effects on Paris. It was occasionally a little repetitive with information from various angles, but Jackson included some great historical context and some really good firsthand information. I wish there'd been more photos!
Aug 30, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While this book started out very well, it went on for far too long. It kept on trying to indicate that things were actually worse than they were. It's certainly worth skimming but don't feel bad if you don't finish it.
Sep 24, 2009 marked it as to-read
I have a review copy. It comes out next year, so I have plenty of time to see how good it is.
Jun 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: good-books
Very well written and easy to read acount of the Paris flood in 1910. My only suggestion would have been to have included better maps of the Seine and Paris, as well as the surrounding areas.
Jan 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The atmosphere, history, and tension in this book have stayed with me long after I finished it. I really loved it and can't manage to move it off my bedside table.
Apr 09, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
As a relative of survivors of the Galveston storm of 1900, I was intetrsted in the similarities of actions and reactions of the population between the two disasters.
Jun 09, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
I didn't love this book. I think it's hard to write a book about a flood though. The water rises. It rises some more. After that, it rises some more. It wasn't a bad book, it just didn't thrill me.
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