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Seven Ages of Paris


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Alistair Horne is the author of eighteen previous books, including A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962, The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916, How Far from Austerlitz?: Napoleon 1805-1815 and the official biography of British prime minister Harold Macmillan. He is a fellow at St. Anthony's College, Oxford, and lives in Oxfordshire. He was awarded the French Legion d'Honneur in 1993 and received a knighthood in 2003 for his work on French history.


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 Cahners Business Information.

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. (Nov. 15) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

"Knowledgeable and colorful, written with gusto and love. . . . [An] ambitious and skillful narrative that covers the history of Paris with considerable brio and fervor"-The Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Consistently bewitching. . . . [Horne] renders France unusually vivid by focusing on the one corner of it that millions of foreigners have toured or lived in or dreamed about." --The New York Times Book Review

"Horne gives readers a wonderful sense of everyday life in Paris at every turn and displays a convincing understanding of the Parisian character." -San Francisco Chronicle

"A fluid, graceful, deliberate prose stylist. . . . Horne's purpose is not to be encyclopedic but to paint a portrait, and this he does surpassingly well." -The Washington Post Book World

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