Departing from biographies of Zola (1995) and Flaubert (2006), Brown enters the French social and political milieu in which those novelists’ works were set. It was vengeful after national defeat by Prussia in 1870, and venomous following the civil war of 1871. Perfectly evoking those moods, Brown advances the attitudes and aspirations of the factions into which French society had fractured, as expressed through the popular press and as interpreted by politicians jockeying for position. Riding a Catholic religious revival, monarchists rallied for a restoration, but the Bourbon pretender stymied their plan. A surge by secularists then sharpened political and religious animosities, so that by the 1880s, France seemed eager for another man on horseback: he appeared as General Georges Boulanger. If, after Boulanger’s vertiginous rise and fall, all factions had to reconcile to France being a republic, for better or worse, then the republic’s relation to the Catholic Church, to business scandals, and to anti-Semitism revealed by the Dreyfus affair still convulsed the politics of the 1890s. A master of the fin de siècle, Brown will engross Francophiles. --Gilbert Taylor
"Brown has the rare ability to write reliable and well-researched history for a broad nonspecialized public. Francophiles, in particular, will love this book."
—Susan Rubin Suleiman, The New York Times Book Review
"Brown’s storytelling is vivacious and fluid, but he also keeps a firm hand on his chronicle, bringing order and perspective to these often chaotic times . . . For the Soul of France
offers a great deal of instruction and many narrative pleasures (even for a French reader). After reading it, visitors to the City of Light, and Parisians themselves, may never look at the Eiffel Tower and the Sacré-Cœur quite the same way again."
—Michel Gurfinkiel, The Wall Street Journal
"Richly illustrated . . . an important work of cultural and intellectual history."
"For the Soul of France
is masterful history, brilliantly researched, and hard to put down."
—Henry A. Kissinger
"For the Soul of France
is a very good example of cultural history. It suggest that even in the heyday of bourgeois materialism, the most important, and often decisive, matter was what large groups of people preferred to think and believe. His episodes are well-selected, and their developments well-written."
—John Lukacs, author of Budapest 1900: A Historical Portrait of a City and Its Culture; Historical Consciousness: Or, The Remembered Past; The Duel: The Eighty-Day Struggle Between Churchill and Hitler
"A master of the fin de siècle, Brown will engross Francophiles."
“Nobody outside France writes better about French history and culture in the late 19th Century than Frederick Brown, and his latest book, FOR THE SOUL OF FRANCE, brings to life for anyone who enjoys history, the Third Republic's immense eruption of scandal; artistic, scientific and technological innovation and creativity. It is a period of
artistic triumph and of political turmoil, the latter increased by the ferocity of a nation divided by defeat in 1871, and by a moral and religious schism that culminated in the Dreyfus Case. The names alone--Gambetta, Thiers, Eiffel, de Lesseps, Zola, Boulanger, Clemenceau--mark the richness of the era, with its fatal combination of dissent, pugnacity, fin de siecle bourgeois luxury and revolutionary art, all of it overshadowed by the thirst for revenge against Germany that brought France to enter the First World War, and the martyrdom of a whole generation, with such misguided enthusiasm. This is the world that ended in 1914 and that all of Europe would look back on with such nostalgia and regret; it is an epic piece of history on a grand scale, full of deeply disturbing resemblances to our own
—Michael Korda, author of IKE, ULYSSES S. GRANT and WITH WINGS