In Twilight of the Belle Epoque, this brilliant social historian applies her novelistic approach . . . to the early 20th century, interweaving a multitude of stories to create—through skillfully chosen glimpses into the lives of its most talented inhabitants—an unforgettable portrait of Paris. . . . Deftly, McAuliffe gathers together the threads of her multiple tales for the arrival of that ultimate rite: war. Here, to her readers’ possible surprise, the artists and inventors emerge as heroes. . . . Summary reduces the various elements of McAuliffe’s marvelous book to a mere cocktail of events. Harder to convey is the subtlety of the mix. With uncommon skill, she blends each ingredient of an incredible époque into a vivid and hugely enjoyable narrative of extraordinary times. (New York Times)
However tentative its beginning and disastrous its end, the Third Republic had its glories, as Mary McAuliffe reminds us in Twilight of the Belle Epoque. The years between 1870 and 1914 were a time when Paris could fairly claim to be the cultural capital of the world. This was the France of the Impressionists and post-Impressionists, of Rodin and the young Picasso, Matisse and Braque, the France of Proust and Gide, of Debussy and Ravel. Paris became the City of Light, the center of fashion. The cinema was born; the Métro was built. The Renault brothers and André Citroën created an automobile industry. Pierre and Marie Curie, discovering the properties of radium, prepared the way for advances that transformed the modern world.
In her panoramic chronicle, Ms. McAuliffe takes up all these topics, giving a year-by-year account of the second half of the era, just as she treated its first half in Dawn of the Belle Epoque (2011). Her strict chronological format creates a series of surprising juxtapositions: On one page, a young Charles de Gaulle marvels at a performance by Sarah Bernhardt ; on the next, Picasso walks around Paris wielding a gun passed down by the avant-garde troublemaker Alfred Jarry. This is a work of serious history, but has some of the easy charms of the coffee-table book and is full of gossip. (When Bernhardt's anti-Dreyfus son offends her during dinner, she angrily shatters a plate.) . . . All of Ms. McAuliffe's Belle Epoque moments, bright and foreboding, build to the horrors and glories of the war of 1914-18, in which France suffered losses of almost 1.5 million men, with some three million more wounded. (Wall Street Journal)
Fascinating trivia about artists in turn-of-the-century Paris adds layers of insight to a time of growth and experimentation...McAuliffe is uniquely positioned to bring this crowded cast of characters to life. She does a thorough job of cataloging the wide range of artistic and scientific achievements while managing to also offer surprising tidbits that add texture to the narrative...McAuliffe’s knowledge of and enthusiasm for this time is evident on every page. (Foreword Reviews)
In her prior work, Dawn of the Belle Epoque (2011), historian McAuliffe recounted how Paris, reeling from the disasters of the Franco-Prussian War and the Paris Commune, reemerged as the glittering cultural center of Europe in the last two decades of the nineteenth century. During the so-called Belle Epoque, art, literature, and science bloomed in a creative outburst, led by a cast of innovative geniuses, including Zola, Monet, Rodin, and Renoir. In her follow-up, McAuliffe covers the period from 1900 to 1914. The cast of characters as well as the political and social milieu have changed somewhat, but the cultural, scientific, and technological creativity continued to flourish. But as McAuliffe indicates, the epoch had its dark side, including the ongoing and increasingly vicious battles between monarchists and republicans, and Catholics versus secularists. The more prescient observers were haunted by the looming threat of a general European war. This is a fine tribute to an amazingly productive period in Parisian and world history. (Booklist)
McAuliffe follows up her Dawn of the Belle Epoque: The Paris of Monet, Zola, Bernhardt, Eiffel, Debussy, Clemenceau, and Their Friends with this book taking readers forward a few decades. It’s actually not so much a history of a time as a collection of biographies—over 30 of them—of early 20th-century French inventors, politicians, and artists. The author divides the book by year, with each chapter relating significant events in the life of the main subjects during that one year. . . . McAuliffe has an eye for the evocative, using quotes—and salacious details—to bring these early 20th-century men and women to life, several of whom—Rodin, Zola, the Curies—were covered in her previous book (she orients readers in case they did not read that volume). The author excels at including material about women throughout. VERDICT Recommended for readers who enjoyed the previous volume and for biography junkies. (Library Journal)
A sequel to her Dawn of the Belle Epoque, which took readers from the Franco-Prussian war to the 1900 Universal Exposition, McAuliffe’s Twilight introduces a new cast of characters. Picasso, Stravinsky, Proust, Marie Curie and Gertrude Stein are just a few of the creative dynamos who appear in the pages of this new volume—a lively account of an era of literary, artistic and technical innovation that ended with the world-altering tragedy of WWI. (France Magazine)
McAuliffe revisits this vibrant, controversial era and weaves brief chronological snapshots of the eponymous figures—plus others like Sarah Bernhardt and Émile Zola—and their (often long-suffering) companions throughout her . . . eminently readable . . . narrative. (Publishers Weekly)
From 1900 through the beginning of World War I, Paris was the place to be if you were an artist, author, musician, scientist, or trendsetter of any kind. Some of the most famous names that helped shape history flocked to share ideas, garner support for their cause, or simply to soak up all that creativity. In the book Twilight of the Belle Epoque, author Mary McAuliffe follows up on her first book Dawn of the Belle Epoque to take readers back to this illustrious age and shows how the looming threat of violence in Europe brought an end to one of the most creative periods in history.
With Twilight of the Belle Epoque Mary McAuliffe offers a delightful romp through one of the most vibrant periods in French history, even as she elegantly captures the shadows looming on the horizon. Those unfamiliar with this period will be awestruck by its riches, while connoisseurs will delight as McAuliffe brings to life the colorful cast of artists and innovators—from Picasso to Peugeot—who ushered in the twentieth century in the City of Light. (Rachel Mesch, Yeshiva College; author of Having It All in the Belle Epoque)
Twilight of the Belle Epoque provides an immensely enjoyable whirlwind account of the many artists, innovators, and dreamers of all stripes who were drawn to the City of Lights in the first years of the twentieth century to pursue their quest for glory. (Stéphane Kirkland, author of Paris Reborn: Napoléon III, Baron Haussmann, and the Quest to Build a Modern City)
You dive into this book, this period, with a swirl of the Paris Exposition of 1900, rushing to the opening of the Metro, over to the summer Olympics in Paris, the racing of cars round the street. . . . Happily read as a stand-alone but you may well thirst for the detail from Dawn of Belle Epoque. . . .The dazzling excitement of the opening chapter runs through to the intrusion and attrition of the war, completing this finely detailed, researched period. . . .[An] exceptional book. (Wordparc)