Summary

A witty approach to 2,000 years of French history from legendary popular historian John Julius Norwich. 
I can still feel, as if it were yesterday, the excitement of my first Channel crossing (as a child of nearly seven) in September 1936; the regiment of porters, smelling asphyxiatingly of garlic in their blue-green blousons; the raucous sound all around me of spoken French; the immense fields of Normandy strangely devoid of hedges; then the Gare du Nord at twilight, the policemen with their képis and their little snow-white batons; and my first sight of the Eiffel Tower.... 
This book is written in the belief that the average English-speaking man or woman has remarkably little knowledge of French history. We may know a bit about Napoleon or Joan of Arc or Louis XIV, but for most of us that's about it. In my own three schools we were taught only about the battles we won: Crécy and Poitiers, Agincourt and Waterloo. The rest was silence. So here is my attempt to fill in the blanks....
John Julius Norwich (at 88) has finally written the book he always wanted to write, the extremely colourful story of the country he loves best. From frowning Roman generals and belligerent Gallic chieftains to Charlemagne (hated by generations of French children taught that he invented schools) through Marie Antoinette and the storming of the Bastille to Vichy, the Resistance and beyond, France is packed with heroes and villains, adventures and battles, romance and revolution. Full of memorable stories and racy anecdotes, this is the perfect introduction to the country that has inspired the rest of the world to live, dress, eat - and love better. 
©2018 John Julius Norwich (P)2018 Hodder & Stoughton Limited
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Daniel Johnstone on 09-04-18

A Love letter to France

A fantastic and engrossing listen. Be sure to know what you are getting into however. As the introduction makes clear, this is not a serious scholarly work. The author very clearly warns of the limitations of this book and that it will of necessity truncate and lack a certain precision. If you cannot live with this, do not buy. If you already know the history of France well, do not buy. On the other hand, if you know only some of French history or know parts but struggle to connect it all in a grand narrative, this could very well be the book for you.

The book is read by the author himself. I found his voice and pronunciation (both English and French) nigh impeccable. He narrates throughout the book as though he is telling you a fond memory of his childhood (which, in the later chapters, he is as he is the son of the first post-war British ambassador to France). He injects a real passion into the storytelling and I have blasted through all 16 hours in just under these days when I planned to take a couple of weeks at least.

All in all, highly recommended , subject to the above, which the author would probably also warn.

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22 of 23 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Richmond Walker on 30-05-18

Moving. Fascinating. Utterly brilliant.

Perhaps the single best history book I have enjoyed. And I feast on history. written and read with emotion, understated wit, and love.

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4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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