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Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris Paperback – April 11, 2011
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Top Customer Reviews
Robb has a novelist's imagination and eye for detail. The first episode is set in the late 18th century and concerns a young man coming to Paris from Corsica. The lad makes his way to the Palais Royal to experience to the pleasures of the flesh for the first time. The young man we find out later on was Napoleon. Apparently the residence Cardinal Richelieu and French Royalty had become the place to go for nightlife in Paris.
Before Baron Haussmann cleared whole neighborhoods to lay out wide boulevards along straight lines, Paris was a network of convoluted, narrow streets. It was a city without maps. Robb tells the story of Marie-Antoinette as she was fleeing the mobs during the French Revolution. She was trying to get to Vincennes but accidentally gave her coachman the wrong directions and ended up in the hands of her enemies.
One of the most interesting and little-known figures brought to light by this study is Charles Axel Guillaumot. In the late 1700s the streets of the Left Bank were starting to cave in as a result of many years of quarrying below the city. Guillaumot, who was an architect and surveyor, decided to reinforce the caverns underneath the city and use them as a place to bury the dead, thus creating the infamous Catacombs.Read more ›
But there were many times I found myself frustrated with the book. Robb clearly knows his Parisian history but chooses to play coy often not telling us who the chapters are about until the last few paragraphs. Moreover he writes as if the reader should know many of facts and dates of Parisian history. My Parisian history is rather weak (why I was interested in the book) so I muddled through as best I could. In one chapter the two unnamed major players of the story were both men and I found myself realizing that the "he" Robb had started to tell me about, was no longer the "he" I was now reading about--you see the difficulty? It's not like this is Faulkner or Joyce we're tackling here. I don't feel it's too much to ask to feel secure in repeating a fact or two of history after I'm finished reading some historical non-fiction.
*Robb makes much of the fact that there wasn't a decent map of Paris up until a certain point but couldn't a *readable* one have been included in the book for reference?Read more ›
However, the execution is terribly lacking. Mr. Robb is, no doubt, a gifted writer. One gets the sense, however, that he's trying TOO hard here. While a couple of the stories are somewhat interesting, the bulk of them are barely readable. The author gets so caught up in extraneous metaphors, flowery language, and coy pronouns that it becomes difficult to determine if two consecutive paragraphs even belong in the same story. More often than not I found myself finishing a story only to wonder "what the hell was that even about?"
The book is 436 pages long. I'm finally giving up on page 400. Had this book been one continuous story instead of short vignettes, I probably would have given up a lot sooner. But each vignette is only 15-25 pages long. Every time I finished a story, I found myself desperately hoping that the next one would knock my socks off and would make this painstaking effort worthwhile. And, again, more often than not, I found myself disappointed and frustrated.
I rarely take the time to post a review on Amazon but that's how frustrating and disappointing "Parisians" was. I am giving it two stars because the _idea_ was excellent. Unfortunately, the author and his writing did not live up to it.
Frustration frequently follows confusion. Consider the following excerpt (pages 340-341):
The OAS has discovered that, between eight and nine o'clock every evening, the old painter who lived above the antiques shop at 86, Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore closed his shutters for the night. The windows of his living room looked directly through the gateway opposite and, in a slightly descending line, at the entrance of the Elysee Palace. On 23 May, de Gaulle was to receive the visit of the President of Mauritania. The protocol for such visits never varied. When the visitor's car entered the courtyard, de Gaulle emerged from the palace and stood still at the top of the steps for at least ninety seconds. On 21 May, the plot was discovered; on 22 May, the painter closed his shutters and went to bed as usual; and on 23 May, de Gaulle stood on the steps and welcomed the Mauritanian President into the Elysee Palace.
What are we supposed to do with this information? Is it the reader's duty to fill in what happened between 21 May and the 23 May?
Dear Graham, if you continue on this path, you'll end up alienating your base which consists of readers accustomed to clarity and dependable information. While the book still offers a quantity of interesting facts, your attempts at artistry and mystery produce nothing except irritation. Please don't do it again.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Quite a different type of history book. Each chapter is a different story. Be ready to be surprised by some of the stories. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
I found this book tedious. It isn't history, it isn't historical fiction. You go from story to story wondering what's true. I don't need this kind of chimera approach to Paris. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Anton Reger
I am still reading this book but I am finding it so interesting.Published 6 months ago by Willard B. Rogers Jr.
Absolutely fascinating. Beautifully written by a person who knows and loves his subject. If I can't travel with Robb as the tour guide's tour guide, then this work will have to do.Published 8 months ago by S. Rosenmeier
Most of the reviewers, except for the most helpful, written when this book was published in 2010, have missed the point of the TYPE BOOK this is. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Howard M. Romaine
Last year, having read only the first few chapters, I lent this book to a friend who was on her way to Paris. Surprisingly, she gave it ho-hum reviews. Read morePublished 9 months ago by M. Weaver
I'm sure this is a good book but I accidentally bought this instead of a similarly named book that I thought I was ordering. The service was great, though!Published 9 months ago by A. McKenna