When we think of France we often evoke images of fine food and wine, the elegant boulevards of Paris, the chic beaches of St Tropez. Yet, as the largest country in Europe, it is a place of huge diversity. The idea of 'Frenchness' emerged from over 2,000 years of history and it is a riveting story from Roman conquest to the present day.
Cecil Jenkins tells the story of the formation of this nation through its people, great events and culture. Through this narrative he charts why the French began to see themselves as so different from the rest of Europe and why, today, they face the same problems of identity as many other nations.
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Mostly modern history
Good race through French history, bad narration
Yes, if you want a reasonable overview of French history without too much detail or analysis.
No. I found the narration irritating, especially in terms of the pronunciation of French words. Vowel sounds in particular were routinely butchered, and the narrator sounded like he was taking a deep breath and a run up before attempting a French word, often pausing momentarily after each one as though to savour his safe landing at the other end. It should have been possible to find someone who knew how to pronounce the language. Apart from this, he lacked the gravitas for the subject, IHMO. I didn't feel he knew anything about history.
The book gets more detailed as it goes on, and so is somehwat lopsided in its coverage. The pre-20th century century sections are dealt with fairly summarily (not a criticism, since the book is only 11 or so hours long anyway) whereas the postwar period is discussed in a lot more detail (up to Sarkozy). For example, the revolutions of 1830 and 1848 seemed to get about as much mention as the French car and aerospace industries.
- Mr A Walker