- Paperback: 576 pages
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (May 15, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1416571779
- ISBN-13: 978-1416571773
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 871 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,353 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris Paperback – May 15, 2012
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"An ambitious, wide-ranging study of how being in Paris helped spark generations of American genius. . . . A gorgeously rich, sparkling patchwork, eliciting stories from diaries and memoirs to create the human drama McCullough depicts so well."
"--Kirkus Reviews" (starred review)
"A lively and entertaining panorama. . . . By the time he shows us the triumphant Exposition Universelle in 1889, witnessed through the eyes of such characters as painters John Singer Sargent and Robert Henri, we share McCullough's enthusiasm for the city and his affection for the many Americans who improved their lives, their talent and their nation by drinking at the fountain that was Paris."
--Michael Sims, "The Washington Post"
"An epic of ideas, as well as an exhilirating book of spells . . . This is history to be savored."
--Stacy Schiff, "The New York Times Book Review
"McCullough has hit the historical jackpot. . . . A colorful parade of educated, Victorian-era American travelers and their life-changing experiences in Paris."
"--Publishers Weekly" (starred review)
"For more than 40 years, David McCullough has brought the past to life in books distinguished by vigorous storytelling and vivid characterizations. . . . . McCullough again finds a slighted subject in "The Greater Journey", which chronicles the adventures of Americans in Paris. . . . Wonderfully atmospheric."
--Wendy Smith, "Los Angeles Times
"A highly readable and entertaining travelogue of a special sort, an interdisciplinary treat from a tremendously popular Pulitzer Prize-winning historian. . . . Highly recommended."
"--Library Journal" (starred review)
"There is not an uninteresting page here as one fascinating character after another is explored at a crucial stage of his development. . . . Wonderful, engaging writing full of delighting detail."
--John Barron, "Chicago Sun-Times
"McCullough's research is staggering to perceive, and the interpretation he lends to his material is impressive to behold. . . . Expect his latest book to ascend the best-seller lists and be given a place on the year-end best lists."
"--Booklist "(starred review)
"McCullough's skill as a storyteller is on full display. . . . The idea of telling the story of the French cultural contribution to America through the eyes of a generation of aspiring artists, writers and doctors is inspired. . . a compelling and largely untold story in American history."
--Kevin J. Hamilton, "The Seattle Times
"From a dazzling beginning that captures the thrill of arriving in Paris in 1830 to the dawn of the 20th century, McCullough chronicles the generations that came, saw and were conquered by Paris. . . . "The Greater Journey "will satisfy McCullough's legion of loyal fans . . . it will entice a whole new generation of Francophiles, armchair travelers and those Americans lucky enough to go to Paris before they die."
--Bruce Watson, "The San Francisco Chronicle
About the Author
David McCullough has twice received the Pulitzer Prize, for Truman and John Adams, and twice received the National Book Award, for The Path Between the Seas and Mornings on Horseback. His other acclaimed books include The Johnstown Flood, The Great Bridge, Brave Companions, 1776, The Greater Journey, and The Wright Brothers. He is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award. Visit DavidMcCullough.com.
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With this book, The Greater Journey, the author has now thoroughly engaged the reader with a topic seldom written about but very deserving of study. It is only natural that we as Americans feel we live in a self centered world; after all we have 2 vast oceans that have protected our shores from invasion for several centuries, and probably will for several more. It simply does not occur to us that since our beginnings, many Americans have chosen to spend considerable time abroad, and in some cases decades of their lives.
During the 1800's and specifically from 1830 until 1900, there was a wave of intellectual migration that headed not west to America, but east to Paris, France from America. Keep in mind that we now sit in a country that is preeminent in the world, financially, intellectually, and probably culturally as well. Back then, we were just forming as a nation. The Indian wars were still in process, and the Civil War would also take place, which became the second re-creation of the United States. McCullough is totally aware of this comparison and makes wise use of it throughout this 456 page book composed of 14 distinct chapters separated into 3 parts, followed by a wonderful epilogue, and a very useful bibliography. The author understands history, and is always mindful of the relative positions of different nations. During this period we were not yet the top dog that we were to become after World War I. Europe still controlled the world's greatest universities and they were already centuries old.
If you are going to read this book in a physical format as opposed to the Kindle digital version, you are in for a treat because the paper chosen is exquisite, and the font selection is superb. If you are an older reader as I am, you will appreciate the time that was taken to design the book appropriately for readers that still relish a physically well made book, and that's what we have here.
This is the story of a 70 year period in the history of Paris, and the scores of Americans who occupied it, lived there, and helped participate in the transformation of what is called the city of light. It is also the story of scores of for want of a better word can be called expatriate Americans, although many of them did return to their native United States at different times.
McCullough is one of the few authors who truly captures the essence of an environment and then proceeds to envelop it with a reality that absorbs and perhaps even demands our attention as readers. His description of the relationship between James Fennimore Cooper and Samuel F.B. Morse and their joy in living in this magnificent city and the effects it had on their work will remain in the reader's soul for many years after the book is put back on the shelf. When Morse painted his masterpiece, it was done in Paris, and perhaps after reading this book, one realizes it could only have been done in Paris.
The city of lights already had vast boulevards, and extraordinary parks decades before the United States designed them. Indeed, New York City's Central Park which would be created later in the century would take much from Paris, and other European cities. The Americans who would go to Paris and spend years there would recall later after returning to the United States the joy of the parks, the energy of the city itself and the sheer unequalled cultural delights that embodied Paris. Visually we can still see much of this in the work of the Impressionist School of painting.
I found the author's handling of Mary Cassatt, who was a Philadelphia born daughter of American socialites who went on to be an illustrious painter as a principal part of the Impressionist school, to be particularly well done. Her relationship to Edgar Degas the renowned painter of the ballet and horses, as well as landscaping is thoroughly chronicled in the book. McCullough's ability to weave life into life, with Paris as the focal point constantly holding the book together in such a way that the reader feels compelled to continue to read, not pausing to eat is what in the end keeps the author at the pinnacle of his profession today.
It is obvious that this book was a labor of love for the author. It comes shining through with the admiration that McCullough holds for both Oliver Wendell Homes the American medical student in Paris, and Ralph Waldo Emerson, a name we all recognize. He even takes the time to take us through the time that Mark Twain spent in this wonderful city.
Not only was Paris transformed by the Americans that occupied it during this century, but Paris itself went through extraordinary changes and development. Kings re-invented the city several times during this century. Vast numbers of poor were displaced and sent to the country. It was invaded during this period as well. Later vast tree lined streets and boulevards would be created that became the envy of Europe. The Louvre would be increased in size enormously in an attempt to make it the most important museum on the entire continent, and France would succeed in this effort.
McCullough intertwines the story of Paris, its growth, its impact on the Americans and what the Americans brought back to America as a result, into a book in such an imaginative way that the reader will find himself revisiting this book from time to time. In the end the book is riveting, and this is a phrase I find myself continuing to use every time I pick up a book written by this author.
Many lives are captured in this masterpiece. They include George Healy the portrait painter, Nathaniel Hawthorne whose writings still continue to occupy many a college freshman's late nights, and future American Senator Charles Sumner who would have his views on slavery refined while living in Paris. Indeed he became an abolitionist as a result of his Parisian experience.
Prior to reading The Greater Journey, I believed I had a good understanding of 19th century Paris. Having studied the art of that period, going to the Louvre, and sitting in on lectures dealing with Paris in the 1800's, I looked forward to seeing what this author could add to the story. I did not expect what I got, which was to have him blow away my understanding and replace it with something that came alive and stood on many different legs of understanding, but isn't that what great writing can do. It can simply make things come alive again. You feel as though you are there, and McCullough puts us right there in the thick of the action.
Although it is not the whole story, if you have any interest at all in understanding the transformative art period that was the Impressionist movement it is vividly captured here in the lives of Augustus Saint-Gaudens with John Singer Sargent, and Mary Cassatt. David McCullough is already an acclaimed author with two Pulitzers and two national Book Awards, and it looks like with this book, he's got another Pulitzer coming down the pike. Thank you for reading this review.
Richard C. Stoyeck
David McCullough has written a delightful story about the human side of history. A tale about the first group of Americans who went to Paris to advance their knowledge and talents then bring that knowledge back to America. The story opens in 1829, before Paris had her Eifel Tower and New York her Statue of Liberty, and concludes at about 1900 after both became symbols of those great cities. He is interested in this first group of aspiring artists, sculptors and medical students because their pilgrimage is little known while what they accomplished in their later lives is so vital to our history, knowledge and creative inspiration.
The characters of his story are some of the most important and influential and creative persons of their day and still important today. They include Samuel Morse, James Fenimore Cooper, Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent, Elihu Washburne, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Charles Sumner and Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr but there are many more in McCullough’s story. The setting is Paris and social, military and political issues do intrude on the studies and works of these intrepid Americans. Even though Washburne did not go to Paris to study, learn and return to enlighten his fellow Americans, his story is profound and I am glad it was included. I had no idea what Washburne did during the Siege of Paris. It is a stirring and fascinating story. I also did not know that the depravity of the Paris Commune far exceeded that of the Siege.
This book is not without its shortcomings. Although the author did want to include developments and advances in science and technology, he really spends much more time on the great medical education available in Paris; free to foreigners. That is why Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr went to Paris in 1833. At the end of the book McCullough begins Chapter 14 with Holmes’ return visit in 1886. We are told of the tremendous reception he received in London, how he was celebrated by the Royal College of Surgeons and how he was awarded honorary degrees from Cambridge and Oxford. Not much information as to why. We are not told of Holmes’ accomplishments in the US after his Paris medical education. A scene is described of Holmes meeting Louis Pasture: “I told him [Holmes said] I was an American physician who wished to look in his face and take his hand – nothing more.” Why would ALL of London’s important physicians honor Holmes while none in Paris knew who he was, what he struggled for, or new anything of his accomplishments? Why did the author not include any of that? Never mind, look it up if you are curious. I had too much fun with this book to get too worked up over that.
What a wonderful story! Just a joy to read. Thank you David McCullough for this book.