Friday, July 6, 2012
Book Review: Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris (2010) by Graham Robb
Robb tells his pocket histories in story form rather than as straight historical essays. I can't say that that choice adds anything to the book except added length, which may have been Robb's intention. Some of the stories offer some remarkable information, such as the assassination attempt made on Francois Mitterand that was, in all probability, a fake organized by Mitterand to give himself a higher political profile. That's a good story. On the other hand, do we need a story about Napoleon's first trip to Paris? There is absolutely nothing new to be told about the man. About half the Paris "stories" are compelling, but the rest just add minor details to some very familiar historical figures and incidents.
Speaking as a francophile, I have a high tolerance for just about anything written about France and the French. I watch the Tour de France just for the scenery and (fingers crossed) the epic crashes. I draw the line at Johnny Hallyday, but beyond that I'm game for anything from Asterix to Zola. That said, Parisians had a hard time holding my attention.