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How Paris became Paris became Paris became Paris became Paris became Paris became Paris..........ad infinitum.
on June 28, 2014
I freely admit I will read/watch just about anything that has Paris as its subject, or even uses that city as a background, but this book took me ages to finish. (A highly unusual situation for me it must be said!)
So constantly I got the feeling that I was just reading the same page over again.
The author knows her material, and presents it in quite a conversational tone but repeats and repeats similar anecdotes and facts until you get this odd feeling of déjà vu .
Yes Paris may have been innovative in so many ways but again and again we are told this and she lauds the praises of that particular city so constantly that even I became more than a little bored, ...and I hasten to add that Paris is my very favourite city in the world!
Each chapter is devoted to another area or field where Paris apparently "led the way" in becoming "modern".
Now there's next to nothing on the very extensive work carried out under the direction of Baron Haussmann at all, ...everything here takes place in the 16th/17th centuries and basically starts off with the removal of the surrounding defensive walls, the building of the Pont Neuf with footpaths, Place des Vosges, Place Vendome, and the development of the up until then barren Ile St. Louis.
She charts the rise of shops and also what we would call "developers" and "financiers", but I think they were probably more like astute speculators than anything else.
Oh, and she does harp on (and on!) about the streets being "lit", ...but as this was only by single candles, suspended one to a street so I don't think the "city of light" was all that bright for quite some time.
Still I suppose it was an innovation, but the very dim effects of guttering candles would hardly have done much to stop street crime (and the cloak-stealing!) as she so often asserts.
After that the author seems to consider Paris to be "modern", despite the fact that it was still largely composed of rat-infested medieval slums that had to be completely demolished and rebuilt before Paris began to look anything at all like what we see today.
The large open square or parvis we now see directly in front of Nôtre Dame Cathedral being one of the very worst places for squalid overcrowded pest holes. Its current open appearance is entirely due to Haussmann.
I enjoyed some of the information here but only up to a point.
What the book needed was a firmer hand with the editing to remove so much of the repetition which I notice has also been remarked upon by most of the other reviews here.
Yes there are quite a lot of very interesting facts if you happen to be into the detailed history of Paris, but if you are just an intending tourist looking for some light background in preparation for a forthcoming trip, then this is far too weighty and dry for your purpose.
I'm giving it three stars, which pains me a bit because it was a valiant attempt, (AND it's about Paris too), but the presentation is just a little too academic and the writing itself comes perilously close to appearing biased. And all too often it relies on re-hashing the same statements again and again.