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Paris: The Novel Hardcover – April 23, 2013

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 832 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1 edition (April 23, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385535309
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385535304
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (842 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,205 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Essay by Edward Rutherfurd

I was eight when I fell in love with Paris. Though my family was British, we had many French cousins, and that year we all went over to Paris to see them.

There was the magical drive around floodlit Paris; the river trip, the walk down the Champs-Elysees. The smell of Gauloises cigarettes--now gone--and French coffee, the taste of real French cooking, a far cry from the food I knew. I took pictures from the top of the Eiffel Tower, and gazed in rapture at the Napoleonic army of toy soldiers in Les Invalides. And then there was the sound of my cousins speaking French--charming, sensuous, mysterious.

But it was something unexpected that impressed me most.

My French cousin Isabelle was driving me and my father's elderly aunt. By mistake, she made an illegal turn. The police pounced. Isabelle apologized. The policeman was stony-faced. Then Isabelle had an inspiration.

"You see, Monsieur, I was taking my aunt from England for a drive," she explained.

The policeman bent down, looked at the little old lady on the back seat, stood at attention and saluted. "Passez, Madame," he said gallantly.

We've all encountered occasional rudeness in France, but throw yourself on a French person's mercy, and their sense of chivalry usually kicks in. That's the special charm of France.

I stayed with my cousins often after that. One Parisian family lived just up the street from Proust's childhood home, and only yards from where the Statue of Liberty was constructed. Others had an old house in Fontainebleau, with a veranda straight out of a Manet painting, and family stories that went back to Napoleonic times. Others lived near the Bastille, or in Hemingway's Montparnasse, or in the Latin Quarter--wonderfully convenient when, as a teenager, I needed to sneak into the revolutionary riots in 1968. All these places found their way into my novel.

The son of a laborer taught me street-fighting--my background for the Gascon family. I knew an old monarchist priest who still held the French kings sacred; an aristocrat who'd known Chagall, and a virulent Marxist student. I lived with professional families whose shared memories went back to the days of the Belle Epoque and beyond. These were the sources of my characters and stories.

And as a young man, I also fell in love in Paris, with an older woman, which left me with memories of Neuilly when the horse chestnuts are in blossom, and of walks in the Parisian dawn, and an old house with parquet floors that creaked, and the smell of fresh croissants and cafe au lait in the morning.

But if Marcel Proust found the past brought vividly back to life by the taste of a madeleine, I too have a taste and smell to share; of eating frogs legs at the age of eight, and being sick afterwards . . . I still can't bear the smell. I'll stick to the croissants and cafe au lait!

From Booklist

Rutherfurd (London, 1997, and New York, 2009) serves up yet another meaty historical saga centering on a major international city. Since the city in question this time is Paris, the repast is sumptuous indeed. As usual, he sweeps the reader along through the centuries, recounting all the most significant transformative events as the City of Light evolves from its humble origins as a Roman trading post to the cultural epicenter of Western civilization. Utilizing his trademark combination of real-life and fictional characters, he stitches their individual stories and experiences together in order to humanize and personalize the emergence of a mighty metropolis over a period of 2,000 years. As with all great cities, both Paris and its citizens endured their share of setbacks, humiliations, and tragedies, but these necessary growing pains often resulted in substantial rewards. Anyone who has ever visited Paris or desires to do so will definitely want to dig into this movable feast. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Both Paris, the venerable City of Light, and Rutherfurd, the undisputed master of the multigenerational historical saga, shine in this sumptuous urban epic that is sure to be another best-seller for the prolific author. --Margaret Flanagan

More About the Author

Edward Rutherfurd was born in Salisbury, Wiltshire, and educated at Cambridge University and Stanford University in California. His first book, Sarum was based on the history of Salisbury. London, Russka,The Forest, Dublin and Ireland Awakening all draw on finely researched details of social history. Edward Rutherford has spent much of the last 30 years living in New York and Conneticut. He has an American wife and two American educated children and has served on a New York co-op board.

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Customer Reviews

Interesting story line, great characters.
erin b.
Not being well read in history, I learn a lot from Rutherford novels since they are very readable with the interaction of family stories and historical events.
Linda G.
Triumphant as the city's architecture and culture, the book is a propulsive march through the geography, society and history of Paris.
Holly Weiss

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

184 of 191 people found the following review helpful By Holly Weiss VINE VOICE on April 7, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
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.
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214 of 228 people found the following review helpful By Maine Colonial TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 23, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
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.
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98 of 111 people found the following review helpful By James Ellsworth VINE VOICE on April 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Edward Rutherfurd's 'Paris' is a wonderfully satisfying blend of the historical novel that combines fascinating insights into the physical development of the city with a sympathetic look at its social development as well. The plot of this sweeping (805-pages, 90 years, momentous events)novel stands on its own due to the vividness of the characters the author offers. Their lives are not atypical but neither are they stereotypical. Nor are the characters rooted in just one level of society: skilled workers, small merchants, large merchant/aristocratic families are represented.

Lovers of the city of Paris may particularly enjoy the results of the author's careful and extensive researches: examples include why the sculptor Bartoldi needed the help of the engineer Gustav Eiffel to erect the Statue of Liberty and the many ingenious ways in which Eiffel solved problems in erecting his own tower, since that time the signature of the 'City of Light.' Prompted by the author's descriptions, one can also revisit the wonderful upper chapel of St. Chappelle at the heart of medieval Paris. Many other delights unfold. Due regard is given to exploring both the city's high culture and its bawdy side as well. One meets Impressionist painters and Art Nouveau cabinet makers; one enters a bordello; one experiences a bit of the German occupation during World War II, including the Liberation of Paris, with a sly manoeuvre by Charles De Gaulle to thwart the Left. The novel ends with the new Paris Commune student rebellion at the end of Charles De Gaulle's Fifth Republic. The novel, then, mainly spans the period from 1875 until 1968, although there are flashbacks to far earlier periods in the city's life.
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