Saturday, May 02, 2015

Paris: The Novel, by Edward Rutherfurd

Paris: The Novel, by Edward Rutherfurd

This is the history of Paris told through they eyes of six fictional families between 1261 and 1968. The types of families are well chosen to give a cross section of society through history: the de Cygnes are aristocrats and royalists, the Le Sourds are socialists and revolutionaries, the Gascons are craftsmen and laborers, the Renards are Protestants, the Blanchards are Catholics, and the Jacobs are Jewish. These characters are injected into and around a huge number of important events, such as the Paris Commune and the Terror, the construction of the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower, the Avignon Papacy, Vichy France, the Dreyfus Affair and the rocky history of Jews in France, and Catholicism versus Protestantism and the Edicts of Nantes and Fointainbleau. Each chapter is set in a different era but they don't appear in chronological order, instead bouncing from 1875 to 1462 to 1907 and so on. As the narrative follows the same families through successive generations this can be somewhat confusing at times, especially as some use the same given names over and over—for example, there are three separate Roland de Cygnes that take the stage in various eras. This drawback is minor though, and doesn't dramatically detract from what is overall a compelling and illuminating story.

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