Friday, November 1, 2013

'Parisians' by Graham Robb - A City and its People

Is a city shaped by its citizens or are the citizens shaped by their city? Imagine taking a time-machine trip into the past and dropping in on the jazz scene in 50s Paris or watching from a horse as Napoleon's vision of the city unfolds before you. Graham Robb takes us on a similar trip with his novel, Parisians.



Parisians by Graham Robb, pub. 2010


Parisians
An Adventure History of Paris

From Napoleon's first romantic liaison in the big city, to Marie Antoinette's wrong turn, from Madame Zola to the Day of the Fox, and back to the jazz scene of Miles Davis and Juliette Greco of St. Germaine-des-Pres. We learn about the men and women who lived in Paris and helped shape its future. From the unprincipled Vidocq, the notorious head of Paris Intelligence, we learn the basics of spying and questionable police methods.

In a photo of Marville, an area of Paris, we see Baudelaire's childhood home and decades later, Jack Kerouac spends time in a cafe there, circa 1950s. The building has only changed slightly, while man passed by. War and occupation were miserable times for the native Parisians, as we learn how it felt and what one did to cope. Stories of Notre Dame and its mysteries, Marcel Proust and the new Metro, the adventures of Mitterand, and the 'amazing courage' of Charles De Gaulle.

Parisians, published in 2010, contains twenty stories from Napoleon's time up to and including the building of the Peripherique, a perimeter road that encircles Old Paris. A New York Times Notable Book of the Year, Parisians also made Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, and Winner of the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize.

I recommend Parisians, if you like French history stirred with fiction. Two faves in this book: Lovers of St. Germain des Pres (about Miles Davis and Juliette Greco) and the Notre Dame Equation. The cover shown above is a print hardcopy.

Robb also wrote The Discovery of France, and biographies of Balzac,Victor Hugo and Rimbaud.

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Notre Dame, Paris, in 2010, by DG Hudson

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Do you like historical fiction? Interested in Paris' dark past? Do you know of Graham Robb, the author? (UK) Have you heard of the Inspector of questionable origins, Vidocq?
Please share in the comments and thanks for dropping by!

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References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graham_Robb About the Author, Graham Robb

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eug%C3%A8ne_Fran%C3%A7ois_Vidocq Vidocq, first private detective

http://www.theguardian.com/music/2006/may/25/jazz Greco celebrates past affair with Miles Davis

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29 comments:

  1. I love historical fiction. My favorite genre to read. This book sounds like a great resource for research. And my sister was just in Paris. I should probably point her toward this book. :)

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    1. I enjoyed this book, LG, and we bought it shortly after we returned from Paris, come to think of it. It is a great resource. We have this and another bought at the same time 'The Greater Journey' (Americans in Paris). I'm reading that now. I may use them as reference for my Paris novel.
      Tell her to check the blurb to see if either appeal to her.

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  2. That would be a unique way to view history. First I've heard of this book.

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    1. I enjoyed some of the stories more than others, but loved learning about history events as well. It's a great way to understand a city and its people.

      You may be interested the other book, Alex, that I mentioned to LG, about Americans that went to Paris (Samuel Morse, James F. Cooper, and others) to study art and medicine. I'll review that one in the future.

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  3. What fascinating books, D.G. Have you heard of the excellent SEVEN AGES OF PARIS? You should see if your library has it. I am going off to see if Kindle has a copy of THE GREATER JOURNEY. Thanks for the email. It helped. Sam and Victor dragged me back into the fray. :-) Fitzgerald is back at Meilori's today, too.

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    1. I'll be checking on that book, Roland, since I just tried to name the seven eras I knew about. Sounds like my kind of book. The history of France and its connections to the US fascinate me.

      I did comment at your blog. Reciprocation is a good thing. Thanks for the book reference!

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  4. Your first question makes me think of the nature vs. nurture debate which I've always thought sort of misses the point. It can't be just one, it must be both--in my opinion.

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    1. I can agree with that. If we are able to select a place that appeals to us we seek the things we like whether that is location or the people and politics.

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  5. Parisians is definitely a book that would interest me. (Could you imagine the stories Gargoyles could tell if they were able to talk?)

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    1. That's why I plan to climb the steps of Notre Dame next time, to see a Gargoyle up close.
      'Parisians' shows what a city and a people can do.

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  6. I would LOVE to have this book! I love history, particularly European history. When my French teacher would tell us the histories of places like Notre Dame and the Louvre, I'd sit silent, enraptured. Copying and pasting the title....thanks!!!!

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    1. It's an excellent book.. I can't get enough of France, either, WordsCrafter, especially Paris. They had a close association with the US all along. Perhaps that's why we are fascinated by their history.

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  7. I'm thinking you could've written, this one, DG! I'm a BIG fan of historical fiction -- WWII era and westerns are my favorites.

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    1. Yes, I wish, Milo! Thanks for the thought. I would love to research Paris on location. I did absorb a lot when I was there.

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  8. That sounds like a really interesting read. I like some historical fiction, and I think it would be great to read a collection of different stories. Thanks for shring!

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    1. My pleasure, Tyrean. Paris makes me smile.

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  9. I very much enjoy historical fiction and wish I'd read this book before we went to Paris this summer. My bad, though, as I'd heard good things about it -- but the time crept up on me. But, in case the travel gods smile again, I'm definitely reading it this winter.

    And thank you for stopping by -- your comments are always insightful and inspiring. A-Z's climbing the charts -- I'm grateful for so much, including your supportive comments.

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  10. It's a great book to read in the winter, Kittie. And I will get to Louisiana again, this time to visit. I remember reading about you and your hubs visiting Normandy.

    The other one I mentioned is also quite good as it features Americans who studied and made a splash in Paris.

    New Orleans has always appealed to me, except for the weather.

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  11. Parisians sounds like a wonderful read!

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    1. It appeals to women and men. Hubs bought it and read it first. He told me I'd like it.

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  12. Hi DG .. these two books sound really fascinating and an 'easy' way to get a glimpse of life in the times GR is featuring .. definitely going to get to read. Both will educate me as to the personages too .. I'll enjoy them .. I do prefer serious historical fiction .. and I know you love Paris - Notre Dame is imposing isn't it ..

    Cheers and thanks for the info .. Hilary

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    1. Hilary, I think you will find this book interesting. We both like history and learning about the past!

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  13. Hi DG .. sorry I see the biographies are each separate - I'd rather thought they were three in one ... but I've read the links - thanks .. and ordered the book. It will be read sometime!

    Vidocq .. what an amazing life ... fascinating post .. thanks, Hilary

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    1. Vidocq was amazing - from criminal to private detective and head of Intelligence. Let me know if you like it, Hilary. I'm reading the Greater Journey right now.

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  14. This is exactly how I like to get my history! Thank you, thank you for the rec...but I better not read until I have enough money saved up to get to Paris, because I just know it's going to light a fire in me to go.

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  15. History served like this is much easier to digest (textbooks never tell us the fun stuff). This book will definitely whet your curiosity.

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  16. love learning a little history, esp about paris on my bucket list! sweet!

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  17. I love history, and yet I haven't really delved into historical fiction. I did read books by Connie Willis that I found fascinating, and much of what she said sent me to the computer to research it further and/or see if that element was true. I love the cover on his book!

    The Warrior Muse

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