As for all of David McCullough books, this is a fascinating read. It brings together all sorts of characters in 19th Century Paris and illustrates many connections among them. I especially liked the discussions of the artists and writers and how ideas gained in Paris were brought back to America. Probably the part of the book that was most enlightening to me was the material about medical research in Paris and how that city led the world in such research at the time. This was something I knew virtually nothing about, but it forms a large part of the book. That is certainly a strength. But it is also a weakness because I believe McCullough dwells too long on a few medical students whose lives are just not all that interesting. Because the author has a complex organizing principle for the book (he organizes both chronologically and by topic/person) there is some unfortunate repetition and things are slow moving in spots. That is unlike most of McCullough's other books where a purely chronological approach works better. But I can see why he had to structure the book the way he did and I do highly recommend it.