Monday 25 June 2018

Book Review: A History of France by John Julius Norwich

Title: A History of France
Author: John Julius Norwich
Atlantic Monthly Press

Publication Date: 2 October 2018
eBook - PDF
ARC via NetGalley


Beginning with Julius Caesar's conquest of Gaul in the first century BC, this study of French history comprises a cast of legendary characters--Charlemagne, Louis XIV, Napoleon, Joan of Arc and Marie Antionette, to name a few--as Norwich chronicles France's often violent, always fascinating history. From the French Revolution--after which neither France, nor the world, would be the same again--to the storming of the Bastille, from the Vichy regime and the Resistance to the end of the Second World War, A History of France is packed with heroes and villains, battles and rebellion, stories so enthralling that Norwich declared, "I can honestly say that I have never enjoyed writing a book more."

With his celebrated stylistic panache and expert command of detail, one of our greatest contemporary historians has deftly captured France's sweeping historical trajectory in an inviting, intimate tone, and with a palpable affection for the enchanting landscape and richly colorful culture.

A History of France is an easy-going, insightful read that charts French history from Roman times to the end of the Second World War. Packed with colourful detail, it will appeal to armchair historians looking for an engaging, light book that will still offer plenty of information. I did bristle a little at the way Norwich discussed Robespierre; however, he did temper his comments toward to the end of the chapter, and once I got over my annoyance at that section, I went on to enjoy the rest of the book, especially the chapters charting the Louis-Phillipe years, and post Napoleon III, about which I was less au fait. All in all, this is an admirable work, offering a clear overview of French history for those looking for an introductory text before they branch off to study specific periods. 4.5 stars.

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