In this luminous portrait of Paris, the celebrated historian gives us the history, culture, disasters, and triumphs of one of the world’s truly great cities. While Paris may be many things, it is never boring.
From the rise of Philippe Auguste through the reigns of Henry IV and Louis XIV (who abandoned Paris for Versailles); Napoleon’s rise and fall; Baron Haussmann’s rebuilding of Paris (at the cost of much of the medieval city); the Belle Epoque and the Great War that brought it to an end; the Nazi Occupation, the Liberation, and the postwar period dominated by de Gaulle--Horne brings the city’s highs and lows, savagery and sophistication, and heroes and villains splendidly to life. With a keen eye for the telling anecdote and pivotal moment, he portrays an array of vivid incidents to show us how Paris endures through each age, is altered but always emerges more brilliant and beautiful than ever. The Seven Ages of Paris is a great historian’s tribute to a city he loves and has spent a lifetime learning to know.
"Knowledgeable and colorful, written with gusto and love.... [An] ambitious and skillful narrative that covers the history of Paris with considerable brio and fervor."
—LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK REVIEW
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 poque 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.