A blog by Ms. Boe
Paris by Edward Rutherford (audio)
A historical novel of epic proportions, Paris follows a few Parisian families through the centuries as they alternatively defend and are threatened by their beloved city. From medieval Paris to revolutionary France to Nazi-occupied Europe, the stories of these families intertwine in a love story to a city impossible to define, yet tantalizing to observe.
It is a testament to Rutherford’s masterful pen that, in his 800+ pages (or 30 hours, as I experienced it), I never got bored. Names, never my strong suit, were not terribly difficult to keep track of, and the mini plots that tie into the main story following three generations of bourgeois Blanchards, aristocratic de Cygnes, and radical Le Sourds from the 1890s to 1940s quickly capture your attention and sympathies.
I found myself yearning for each new romance, each new tragedy in the lives of these families. An undeclared history major before switching to English, I love a historical fiction novel that educates as it entertains. I learned about the construction of the Eiffel Tower and its later malfunction that prohibited Hitler from ascending the monument. I learned about the Catholic massacre of Protestants in the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. The French Impressionists, the French Terror, the French monarchy—all received edifying and engrossing narratives. Yet, Rutherford did not stock his 800 pages to the brim with historical facts. His research on Parisian history is evident from beginning to end, but the history you learn as you read comes as part of the story (although some paragraphs are strictly historical background, which, for me at least, didn’t detract from the story), so it never feels like a history lesson.
For anyone willing to invest the hours in completing this novel, I promise you’ll learn quite a few interesting tidbits to share the next time Paris comes up in conversation. If this doesn’t compel you, read Paris because it’s a solid, entertaining novel.