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Seven Ages of Paris First Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 78 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0679454816
ISBN-10: 0679454810
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

London is male, New York sexually ambivalent, writes Horne. But "has any sensible person ever doubted that Paris is fundamentally a woman?" The renowned historian (The Fall of Paris, etc.) thus conceives of his history of the city of lights as "linked biographical essays, depicting seven ages... in the long, exciting life of a sexy and beautiful, but also turbulent, troublesome and sometimes excessively violent woman." Horne's admittedly idiosyncratic seven ages begin in the 13th century, when King Philippe Auguste made Paris the administrative and cultural center of France. The second age was that of the Protestant Henri of Navarre (later King Henri IV) who, after unsuccessfully besieging the city, converted to Catholicism because, he said, "Paris is worth a mass," and began "to clear away the cluttered medieval quartiers... and replace them with an orderly, classical elegance." The third era was that of King Louis XIV, a period of amazing cultural flowering, though the Sun King moved the seat of government away from Paris, to Versailles. Napoleon brought to Paris a postrevolutionary stability and grandeur, and began to construct a modern sewer system. Under Napoleon III and Baron Haussmann, during the city's fifth age, Paris was remade, but the era ended with the bloodletting of the Commune. Age six took the city from the belle epoque through the beginning of WWII, and the last from the occupation to 1969. Horne brings to this brilliant and entertaining account the same urban passion that Peter Ackroyd brought to his recent "biography" of London-and it is sure to delight Francophiles everywhere. 8 pages of color and 16 pages of b&w illus. not seen by PW.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This highly readable narrative by celebrated journalist and historian Horne (The Fall of Paris; A Savage War of Peace: Algeria, 1954-1962) uses an admittedly idiosyncratic organizational scheme to trace the history of Paris through seven periods, beginning in the 12th century and ending with the death of Charles de Gaulle in 1969. His "ages" focus on medieval and Renaissance Paris; the era of King Henry IV; the 18th century and Louis XIV; revolutionary and Napoleonic Paris; the 19th century, culminating in the Bloody Week of the Commune; the Belle poque; and the age of war and occupation. While politics informs and guides his presentation, this is by no means a political history. Each section includes fascinating insights into the social and cultural life of the age, fashions in clothing, architectural developments, leading personalities, and lifestyles of rich and poor alike. With the verve of a master storyteller, Horne captures Parisians' "zest for living." While often depicting Paris itself as a beautiful woman, he does not neglect the famous female personalities of each era. This readable survey complements yet stands in sharp contrast to Patrice Higonnet's recent Paris: Capital of the World, which takes a more academic focus and eschews a chronological approach. Highly recommended for large public libraries.
Marie Marmo Mullaney, Caldwell Coll., NJ
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First edition (November 12, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679454810
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679454816
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.6 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #533,217 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Bruce Loveitt on November 19, 2002
Format: Hardcover
In the past few years we've had a massive biography of New York City ("Gotham") and several only slightly less massive biographies of London (by Peter Ackroyd, Stephen Inwood, etc.). Alistair Horne, an Englishman who has spent most of his life writing about France, rightly decided that it's about time we gave equal time to the City Of Light. He has written a very good book. If you don't know much about France and the French, Mr. Horne's book covers so many different areas that it is sure to whet your appetite to learn more. Even if you're a longtime Francophile, the author has dug so deeply into his sources that you're bound to be delighted and/or surprised at many of the tidbits he's unearthed. For example, during the siege of Paris in the autumn of 1870, the Parisians were able to communicate with the rest of France by successfully sending out balloons. But the balloons were never able to make it back in to Paris. The solution? Mr. Horne takes up the story: "It was the humble carrier-pigeon that was to prove the only means of breaking the blockade in reverse. A microphotography unit was set up in Tours, and there government despatches were reduced to a minute size, printed on feathery collodion membranes, so that one pigeon could carry up to 40,000 despatches, equivalent to the contents of a complete book. On reaching Paris, the despatches were projected by magic lantern, their contents transcribed by a battery of clerks......As a counter-measure, the Prussians imported falcons, which prompted one of the many imaginative Parisian 'inventors' to suggest that the pigeons be equipped with whistles to frighten off the predators". And while many people know that the siege reduced Parisians to having to eat horses, dogs, cats, rats and even animals from the zoo.....Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
One of the most beautiful cities in the world has finally found a worthy biographer in A. J. Horne. Paris has always held a fascination for most, being a center of not only political and commercial interest, but also home to the art and culture known throughout the world. Horne's book describes the history of the city, with particular interest on the architectural changes, by highlighting seven different time periods, beginning with an introduction of the early beginnings of the city culminating in the late 1960's riots which shook Paris. Wonderfully written, with snippets of information hard to find elsewhere. For example, I often wondered by St. Genevieve was the patron saint of the city. Horne supplies that information that very early during the history of the city an attack was feared from the invaders of the west and as the city prepared to flee, young Genevieve had a vision that the attack would not take place and halted the evacuation. It's little pieces of information such as this, which made the book an exceptionally fun as well as educating read.
Special attention is also paid to other significant historical events, especially those after the 1600's. What really strikes the read is one thing: the number of uprisings (the French Revolution of 1789 was only one in a series) that had struck the city, most of them organized on a grass roots level. This also helps explains why the cobblestones of the streets have been cemented into place...these make very good missiles for those fed up with the weak administration of the city. That is another point that the author stresses...sanitation and city planning came very late to Paris, and this led to unimaginable squalor in various quarters of the city.
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Format: Hardcover
The previous reveiwer does a good job of giving one the flavor of this book. I would describe it as the informative ramblings of a very knowledgable historian, writing with breezy informality and a corresponding lack of discipline. (Let me reiterate a point from the previous reviewer that left me incredulous: the revolution of 1789 is, in any meaningful sense, absent. Now, this ground has been well trod by others, but really! A few more pages were in order.
I bought this book as something to read in preparation for a brief visit to Paris. I learned a great deal and for the most part consider it a worthwhile exercise.
With one serious caveat. The illustrations are small and poorly chosen, and even worse, there is no map! This book brims with vivid descriptions of the city's growth, destruction and reconstruction yet there is no visual reference for any of this. Some of the historical plates are interesting, but add little to the experience. A major omission in an otherwise good work of history.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a superbly written history of Paris, as well as of France. It is at once well researched and scholarly, and highly readable and entertaining. While the history is focused on Paris, Horne skillfully weaves in the history of France as well. One thing that makes this such a good book is that Horne not only provides the reader with the political history, but weaves in descriptions of social issues, how the average Parisian lived, descriptions of the different social classes, information on the arts and culture, entertaining anecdotes, interesting portrayals of the important persons in the history of Paris and France, etc. In essence, he provides the reader with a full, comprehensive portrayal of Paris and France in a highly engaging writing style. My only very minor criticisms of the book are that a map of Paris should have been included, and not all of the very limited use of French was translated. Nevertheless, this is a must read for anyone interested in Paris and France. I would love to see Horne write a similar history of London.
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