Customer Review

127 of 134 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An erratic performance, August 12, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris (Hardcover)
This study of the profound influence of Paris on the development of American science and art is a very curious book: Frequently a series of unsatisfying vignettes, with an occasionally dazzling series of chapters sharply focused on an individual or a particular set of circumstances--not characteristic of Mr. McCullough's usual writing at all. Also uncharacteristic of this author were factual errors in the first twenty or so pages: Henri II is not buried at Rouen, as Mr. McCullough states, but at Fontevrault Abbey, and Louis Phillipe did not work in Boston as a waiter in an oyster house, although that somehow is a very pleasing idea. (He lived upstairs, and taught French downstairs to young ladies, in the building which later became Boston's Union Oyster House.) When someone errs in something I do know something about, I worry about accuracy in areas I don't know anything about.

The Greater Journey is well worth reading, however, if only for the chapters on medical education in Paris, and how the young Americans who studied medicine there brought back innovative scientific ideas to the United States; for the chapters on Augustus St. Gaudens; but most of all for the chapters on Elihu Washburne, the American minister to France at the time of the Franco-Prussian War and the Commune. Mr. Washburne well deserves to be restored to our national memory for his integrity and courage, now perhaps more than ever--an inspiring tale, well told. I wish more of the book were at this level, instead of reading like a very long passenger list for a transatlantic packet or steamer. (I wish Mr. McCullough had included a time line!)

An uncharacteristically spotty job.

PS Don't get this book on Kindle if you'll miss the numerous and beautiful color plates!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in


Tracked by 2 customers

Sort: Oldest first | Newest first
Showing 1-10 of 11 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 9, 2011 8:52:14 PM PDT
Sue Orischak says:
Wow Have read most of his stuff- - with respect- -but this Boring and a very poor excuse to waste time

Posted on Nov 20, 2011 3:43:41 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 20, 2011 3:44:28 PM PST
I agree with the Wasburne chapters. It was the best part of the book. Readable not but not of the same caliber of his biographies of John Adams or Harry Truman

Posted on Nov 25, 2011 1:08:54 PM PST
The interview with Mr. McCullough by Diane Rehm on NPR was beyond interesting. It made me want to rush out and buy this book. He did say that he used words from the extensive journals of the people involved. Maybe that's why some reviewers say his writing is not up to snuff? I'd go online and listen to the interview. Maybe your disappointment will be explained ...

Posted on Jun 11, 2012 2:50:15 AM PDT
Excellent review. Right on in every way.

Posted on Jul 22, 2012 10:23:52 AM PDT
I agree completely with egreetham's review,a time line would of helped. He introduced so many names and jumped around it was hard to follow. Parts of the book were worthy. Just an avid reader

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 13, 2012 2:53:13 PM PDT
Yes Lois was right a timeline and list of who these people are. The medical parts were my favorite but it was impossible to relate to people in this book because we never got a chance to know them as in stick to one person for more than a fragment.

Posted on Aug 26, 2012 11:22:08 AM PDT
CM Ramirez says:
Good points. I did read the book and thoroughly enjoyed it for reasons mentioned. The beginning was slow because of the 'passenger list' nature of the dialogue but a quarter into the book, I became enthralled with the experiences he related as well as the history that is woven in and the US-France connections.

Posted on Sep 30, 2012 7:00:42 AM PDT
M. Smith says:
Have it on CD, and when finding it at a bookstore, and seeing all the illustrations I was missing, I was upset.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 30, 2012 7:04:30 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 30, 2012 7:12:55 AM PDT
M. Smith says:
I agree about the writing style of that era affecting enjoyment of this work. Have the audio edition, and it's been getting a bit laborious. Dawned on me yesterday perhaps it was from relating all the 19th C journals verbatim. Grew up in James Fenimore Cooper's environs, where his works were required reading, and was reminded of the days of 9th grade. ;-) Although I've had a harder time staying enthused during all the details of Mr Washburne's travails (speaking of 19th century words...). Have enjoyed the traveler's adventures.

Posted on Mar 5, 2013 10:11:07 AM PST
I agree that this book is erratic at best and sketchy at its worst. Sure, the Washburne section was one of the more interesting. But what about his wife, who dutifully entertained his guests and then scurried off with the children to set up a household elsewhere?
And at least as important: the Paris Commune was not merely a bunch of rowdy radicals who cruelly killed the clergy for no good reason. I expected a more nuanced history from McCullough here and on many other parts of this "journey" as well. [And what became of Mary Putnam?]
‹ Previous 1 2 Next ›

Review Details


4.4 out of 5 stars (534 customer reviews)
5 star:
4 star:
3 star:
2 star:
1 star:
Used & New from: $0.01
Add to wishlist

Location: Massachusetts

Top Reviewer Ranking: 19,292