By Edward Rutherfurd

The Short Take:

Rutherfurd has departed somewhat from his typical James Michener style. This novel still traces fictional families in Paris from 1261 to 1968. However, the bulk of the book focuses on the period from 1875 through 1940. This provides a much more cohesive story line, but I was a bit disappointed not to have anything from Paris’ first millennial CE.


Rutherford certainly focused on an amazing time for France, with the building of the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, the Impressionist artists, both World Wars, vast social changes, and more. ¬†There’s also certainly a lot to be said for having multiple chapters about just three generations of the various key families instead of continually skipping several generations ahead. My disappointment is purely personal, as the father back in time my historical fiction goes the better I like it.

In addition to the fictional families, ¬†genuine historical figures make their appearance, from Claude Monet to Gustave Eiffel to Charles de Gaulle, along with various French kings. The conflict between the aristocracy and everyone else, and the recurring attempts at revolution — successful and otherwise — were recurring themes. It appears that the tendency to march for change is something that runs deep in the Parisian spirit.

Rutherford’s exploration of the attempts over time to create a more equitable, worker-run government was exceptionally interesting, particularly regarding the influence of Russia’s own Communist government (which often had a totally different agenda).

It was a good read. I just wanted it to go way back to the Romans, too.

A Little Plot:

The book is built around generations of several families: the aristocratic de Cygne’s, the rich merchant Blanchard’s, the hard-working Gascon’s, the socialist Le Sourd’s, the Jewish Jacob’s, and the Protestant Renard’s.

The usual inter-relations take place, fortunes rise and fall — or just keep rising. And Paris stays Paris — the actual star of this novel.

For more about Edward Rutherfurd and his books, click here.

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