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Customer Review

32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars McCullough uses new approach - not for everybody, June 18, 2011
This review is from: The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris (Kindle Edition)
David McCullough is America's premier writer on history, with a big fan base for his books on historical figures (Harry S Truman, John Adams) and historical events (Jonestown Flood). This book has been widely reviewed as being disappointing by comparison. That is because this is not a book with a single focus. As close as it comes to a thesis is that the small numbers of Americans who ventured to Paris in the 19th Century were as influential in shaping the American character as the large number who ventured westward at the same time, but that idea is only indirectly stated.

The book is best as a collection of small facts: The great "French" Impressionist painter Degas had an American mother (who knew?) or that the "American" portrait artist, John Singer Sargent, lived his entire childhood and adolescence in Europe, dragged about by vagabond parents. He never set foot in his homeland until he was eighteen and spoke English with a British accent.

I have come to like this book because, like an impressionist painting, it explores Paris through an accretion of small points and almost coincidental connections. It is quite unlike his forceful explorations of personalities and events in previous books.

For the Francophile this is going to be a wonderful addition to the library. It will also have great resonance for art lovers. For history buffs, however, this may be a disappointing departure from McCullough's more typical style.
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Location: San Francisco, CA, United States

Top Reviewer Ranking: 207,994