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Engaging overview of the Belle Epoque’s later years
on March 17, 2014
This book makes it easy to get caught up in the intertwined lives of painters, composers, entrepreneurs, politicians, innovators, performers, and scientists from the later years of France’s Belle Epoque. After loving the first volume, Dawn of the Belle Epoque, I knew I had to read this title and was not disappointed.
Each chapter covers one year from 1900 to 1918--so through The Great War, WWI--with a rich mix of returning characters. We learn about the achievements, love affairs, feuds, ambitions, and failures of many luminaries of the age including Monet, Degas, Picasso, Matisse, Ravel, Louis Renault, Stravinsky, Charles De Gaulle, Debussy, Coco Chanel, Marcel Proust, Georges Clemenceau, Isadora Duncan, Marie Curie, Gertrude Stein, Jean Cocteau, André Citroën, Paul Poiret, François Coty, Nijinsky, Sarah Bernhardt, Dreyfus, and Diaghilev.
Among my favorite moments are Marie Curie and her family hiking with Einstein and his, Marcel Proust returning from an evening walk with shrapnel on his hat because though he was afraid of mice German air raids didn’t scare him and he even found the lit up skies beautiful, and a determined young Charles De Gaulle captured by the Germans while serving in the French army managing to repeatedly escape from increasingly locked down POW fortifications only to be caught each time and returned to prison.
If you want depth on any particular individual you’ll have to go elsewhere but Twilight of the Belle Epoque provides a lively, fascinating, and surprisingly moving overview of the era and many of its most interesting people. I read an advanced copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley.