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The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris Audio CD – Abridged, May 5, 2015
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About the Author
Edward Herrmann's films include Nixon, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Annie, and The Aviator. On television's Gilmore Girls he starred as the patriarch, Richard Gilmore. He has also appeared on The Good Wife, Law & Order, 30 Rock, Grey's Anatomy, and Oz. He earned an Emmy Award for The Practice, and remains well-known for his Emmy-nominated portrayals of FDR in Eleanor and Franklin and Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years. On Broadway, he won a Tony Award for his performance in Mrs. Warren's Profession.
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Yet, David McCullough has once again managed to captivate me with these interwoven stories of inventors, doctors, and artists and the deep entwinement that marks American and French history. The book is interesting, first of all, because the book centers on a place rather than a person (McCullough is perhaps first thought of by most as a biographer), so I was curious to see if and how he could "bring to life" a 19th-century city.
Of course, this is the David McCullough of "John Adams" fame, so there was never much in the way of doubt as to what he could actually accomplish. There is an unbelievable ease to his writing. Though his scholarship is immense (especially when you consider all the excerpts from personal letters and diaries), it never weighs the story down nor does it give the book the "clunky" feel so common to most academic works. Perhaps that is due to McCullough's virtually-inerrant sense for the "telling" anecdote that encapsulates the point or captures the spirit of what he is trying to convey. Here are stories of the formative years of many of America's "leading lights" of the 19th century: Samuel F.B. Morse, George Catlin, Mary Cassatt, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and John Singer Sargent, among others…all told with ease and grace and fine sense of the entanglement that makes human life and society so rich and exciting.
If the book does anything, I believe it shows, first of all, the deep kinship that bonds the United States of America to the country of France. It also reminds me that, though world history is vast and complicated, for all intents and purposes, the modern world revolved around Paris for much of the 19th century…artistically, technologically, medically, politically. Perhaps our postmodern ethos has made us so intent on telling the "forgotten" stories of history (a moral duty, no doubt) that we've almost lost the ability to discern the "pivotal" stories that have shaped not just the contemporary moment but the trajectories of decades and even centuries to come. There are "centers" to world events (assuredly not all Western European or North American), and McCullough's thoughtful portrayal has me considering where such influence might be found today. That is the ultimate power of good history: to recall the past in such a way as to reshape our comprehension of the present. And that is precisely what David McCullough's work unfailingly does.
Top international reviews
With “The Greater Journey” David McCullough has brought us another great century of American history. This time he follows the journey of ex-pats living in Paris, the center of civilization. They were there on a mission to learn and better themselves in order to help their new nation advance. There are so many stories and characters that when I picked up the book it was a bit intimidating. However, this book turned out to be a page turner, as the author masterfully intertwines all these stories into a beautiful work of art and history.
And David McCullough knows about art. The book has a quite a few pictures of art works produced in this era by masters such as Morse, Healy, St. Gaudens, Sargant, and Cassat. The descriptions of these works and the creative process they went through is simply excellent. The bibliography alone is over one hundred pages.
Furthermore, this book beyond the individual stories of its characters also brings to light the history of Paris in the 19th century. From revolutions, and violence, and war, to an age of enlightenment, and prosperity, finishing with the Belle Époque.
I would highly recommend this book as good reading to be savored and cherished. The sacrifices that these generations of Americans went through in pursuit of knowledge and artistic growth are truly inspirational.
Je l'ai déjà prêté à deux personnes qui ont adoré ce livre. A lire et relire, à offrir sans hésiter aux Français qui s'intéressent aux USA.
Il n'est pas ennuyeux du tout (à part la fin qui est un peu longue) et le style est clair et vivant. Qui aurait dit que je réviserais mon histoire de France de manière aussi agréable et par le biais d'un livre américain!
Sans compter la foule de choses qu'on apprend par aillleurs - par exemple l'origine du mot "barnum" !
Dommage que ce livre n'ait pas été traduit en français (à moins qu'il le soit entre temps)