Sunday, August 04, 2013

Dreaming of France -- Paris by Edward Rutherfurd

Please join this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.
Maybe we can all satisfy our yearnings for France, until we get there again.

I really enjoyed this novel Paris by Edward Rutherfurd. I'm not one to read straight history. I need a hook, and Rutherfurd gave me one. He entwined the stories of several families throughout the history of Paris to share major events of the city and the country of France. Some might even imagine the book a soap opera in the tradition of Dallas or Dynasty. The main focus of the book began in 1875 and continued through the 1960s. But other chapters jumped back further in history to 1261 then 1307.
I'm hoping that Rutherfurd did his research because I'm taking his word for it. I learned a lot, like why Jewish families became bankers or money lenders, since the Bible said Christians shouldn't lend money. I could picture Paris from its early incarnation with the city wall that slowly expanded. I saw the kinds of fears my Huguenot relatives must have faced living in France, wondering if they would be rounded up and forced to become Catholic or killed. I loved envisioning the construction of Sacre Coeur high up on the hills of Montmartre and even more the engineering marvel that was the Eiffel Tower. I pictured the optimistic French soldiers marching off to war during World War I in their bright blue and red uniforms before they realized that their plans for war were antiquated and they were out-gunned. The same thing happened again in World War II as if the leaders never learned from their mistakes. Throughout history, the human drama of the families kept me interested.
The book is long, 805 pages. But it's an entertaining ride.
Here's a passage of dialogue from the 1500s discussing the wedding of Catherine de Medicis daughter to Henry King of Navarre, who will become king of France.
"You have heard of the great Machiavelli, I am sure."
"Who has not? An evil man."
"He merely described the ruthless cunning, the cold calculation, the poisonings and murders that he saw all around him among the rulers of Italy -- the Florence of the Medicis in particular. our queen mother will act exactly like that."
"And so this wedding...?"
"Is a diabolical trap. Think of it. Coligny is here. Almost every leading Protestant in France has come into Paris for this wedding, along with their followers. What a chance."
"I don't understand."
"She's going to kill them all. She and the Guises."
"But there are hundreds of them."
"Thousands. It's most convenient."
Some parts of the book obviously were sad to read, but the families Rutherfurd created have hope each generation.
Rutherfurd also has an inside joke with a wink at the movie Midnight in Paris. During a scene with Hemingway and his wife Hadley, they encouraged a young American writer to stay in Paris longer.
"Don't go disappearing on us, like Gil," said Hadley.
"Who's Gil?" asked Claire.
"Oh, he was a nice young American that we all thought had promise," said Hadley. "And then suddenly he wasn't there anymore. Disappeared without a word."
 I'm not sure if Rutherfurd was correcting the record, since Hemingway's wife didn't appear in the movie and according to The New York Times, Hemingway was married and living with his wife in Paris in 1922.
If you love Paris and a good soap opera and want to learn some history, this novel is an interesting read.
This also fulfills one of my books for the France reading challenge at Words and Peace.
Thanks for joining in this week. I can't wait to see what you are sharing.


Esme said...

I have seen this book in the bookstores.

Sim Carter said...

Intriguing! I've got my Dreaming of France up too; you'll never's about a movie based on a book filmed on location in France.
Surprised? Lol.

Louise said...

I'm glad you enjoyed this one Paulita, I'd like to get to it, but I really struggle with big, big books. Perhaps one day when I have a month off with no other books to read.

Virginia said...

My Paris book collection is bordering on the hoarding!

Paulita said...

I know. It seems like a glut but it makes me so happy.

Jackie McGuinness said...

I've been curious about these books as he has written about other cities that I have visited. I'm not a fan of straight history either, so your review has inspired me.

Joy said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed this book, too! I loved reading it while in France.

Joy's Book Blog

Jeanie said...

Thanks for reviewing this, Paulita. I saw it in the book store and may wait till it is in paperback, which I hope is soon. I've read two of Rutherford's other books -- "London" and "Sarum" -- and I really liked his style and how he carried the story forward through so many years, so I have been anticipating this one. Now I want to read it all the more!

Unknown said...

I agree with Jeanie. Rutherford’s writing style and storytelling mastery makes this rather long read seem too short. And, spoiler alert, I was pleasantly surprised to see Gil.

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