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Paris: The Novel
By Edward Rutherfurd

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Paris: The Novel

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Paris: The Novel
By Edward Rutherfurd
Random House Large Print, 2013
ISBN: 978-0307990891
Genre: Historic Fiction

Reviewed by Angela Evans - April 25, 2013

See Paris as you never have before in this multi-generational saga from the pen of the acclaimed writer, Edward Rutherfurd. In his book, Paris: The Novel, Rutherfurd provides a sweeping overview of nearly 700 years of Parisian history as seen through the eyes of his characters. In the process, you not only get to see the city develop and mature, but also to get a sense of how the sights, sounds, and even smells of the city, changed over time. Along the way, Rutherfurd introduces you to the architecture, culture, and politics.

The story begins in 1261 with the building of the Notre Dame Cathedral and takes readers up through the late 1960's. Rutherfurd shows us Paris through the eyes of a host of characters ranging from Church leaders, politicians, philosophers, and soldiers, to ladies of the evening, bums, and street vendors. This varied viewpoint gives you a multi-faceted look at the city, and the people that have inhabited it over time.

Paris: The Novel is not a typical novel. You don't have a central plot that follows a hero as he fulfills his quest, or two lovers fighting the odds to be together. Rather, the central figure in this story is the city of Paris, and the plot, if you can call it that, primarily follows the exploits of three families, from three different classes. These families, and the historical events chronicled in this book are bracketed by the confines of the city. As such, you meet the artists and engineers that helped to design and build some of the great architectural features of the city, such as the Eiffel Tower. You get to see how various wars, from the French Revolution (French Civil War) to World War II impacted the city, and you get to meet various peoples who participated in, or who were affected by, these wars.

If you are a fan of narrative nonfiction, or simply sweeping sagas, you'll love this book. Rutherfurd's narrative style is engaging and the story so engrossing that you don't realize that you are receiving an immense history lesson along the way. Because of the scope of this novel, you don't get to really know any of the characters. Events, and time, simply move too swiftly in this story for Rutherfurd to spend much time on any specific point. This can be a bit frustrating at times, but the overall effect is to produce a fast paced story that will make you feel as if you actually visited the Paris of the past. The only drawback to this otherwise excellent novel is that Rutherfurd jumps around in time, rather than using a chronological format. With this one caveat, I highly recommend Paris: The Novel to all fans of historic fiction and of sweeping dramas.

Several of Rutherfurd's other grand novels are also available in large print, they are:
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