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Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris

Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris

Written by Graham Robb

Narrated by Simon Vance


Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris

Written by Graham Robb

Narrated by Simon Vance

ratings:
3/5 (18 ratings)
Length:
13 hours
Publisher:
Released:
May 3, 2010
ISBN:
9781400187102
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

Description

This is the Paris you never knew. From the Revolution to the present, Graham Robb has distilled a series of astonishing true narratives, all stranger than fiction.



A young artillery lieutenant, strolling through the Palais-Royal, observes disapprovingly the courtesans plying their trade. A particular woman catches his eye; nature takes its course. Later that night, Napoleon Bonaparte writes a meticulous account of his first sexual encounter.



An aristocratic woman, fleeing the Louvre, takes a wrong turn and loses her way in the nameless streets of the Left Bank. For want of a map-there were no reliable ones at the time-Marie-Antoinette will go to the guillotine.



Baudelaire, Baron Haussmann, the real-life Mimi of La Bohème, Proust, Charles de Gaulle (who is suspected of having faked an assassination attempt on himself in Notre Dame)-these and many more make up Robb's cast of characters. The result is a resonant, intimate history with the power of a great novel.
Publisher:
Released:
May 3, 2010
ISBN:
9781400187102
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

About the author

Graham Robb was born in Manchester in 1958 and is a former fellow of Exeter College, Oxford. He has published widely on French literature and history. His 2007 book The Discovery of France won both the Duff Cooper and Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prizes. For Parisians the City of Paris awarded him the Grande Médaille de la Ville de Paris. He lives on the English-Scottish border.


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Reviews

What people think about Parisians

3.1
18 ratings / 21 Reviews
What did you think?
Rating: 0 out of 5 stars

Reader reviews

  • (2/5)
    Some interesting stories about important people in the history of Paris, but the book lacks any coherent theme or point of view. Worse -- the author over-uses cute techniques such as delayed disclosure of the name of the person who is the central subject in a chapter.
  • (3/5)
    This started out as an enjoyable read - a series of short chapters each focusing on a particular person in the history of Paris from 1780 to modern day. While some of the stories are fascinating and informative I found others downright tedious - perhaps that is because I am more interested in the earlier days of the city than I am in the rise of Sarkozy. On the whole, though, an interesting book touching on some very interesting people.
  • (4/5)
    I loved this quirky take on the history of my favourite city. I was constantly astonished by Robb's fantastic abilty to unearth tiny details with huge significance. At times this readslike a thrilling detective story - at times like a romance. Next time you go to Paris, the streets under your feet will have far greater siginificance that you could possibly have imagined before reading this book.
  • (4/5)
    An anecdotal stroll through the history and quirks of Paris. The revelation to me is to see Paris as a jumble of districts and peculiarities driven by the people who live there, just as London is, rather than the postcard picture view. The stories of strange events and wierd architectures is fascinating. The only gap I find is it does not reveal Parisians themselves as much as I thought it might. People drive place and tiny decisions accumulate to influence might city strategies; this is revealed well and leads me to understand why Paris without me much caring about Parisians.
  • (2/5)
    This book is a collection of little-known stories about Parisians throughout the ages. I love non-fiction and from the blurb I was really looking forward to listening to this book, but I didn't enjoy it at all. I think I may have liked it more if I had read it instead of listened to it. I couldn't follow the stories and I'm not sure if that's the author's fault, the narrator's fault, or my fault. Regardless, throughout I kept going "Huh?" The stories seemed to be designed to keep the reader in the dark as long as possible about what each one was about and I just couldn't hold the thread until the end.If you're going to try this one, save your Audible credit and buy the hardback instead.
  • (5/5)
    This is one of the best and most interesting books I've read in a long time. I guess strictly speaking it's a geography book, but there is so much depth to the individual stories that it goes way beyond that. Each of the twenty sections tells the story of one part of Paris at one time, or through a related connection of times. Each section is told in a different style and sometimes the styles are very unusual, with one section written as a screenplay. I found it to be an unusually difficult book to read because of the layering of ideas but also unusually rewarding.
  • (2/5)
    This is a book full of wonderful stories, oftentimes told inchoherently. I learned a great deal about Paris, and about some of the people and events that make the city great. Unfortunately, it was sometimes a struggle trying to figure out what the author was trying to say. He seemed to be caught up in the idea of needing to tell each story in a clever way. Really, the stories were capable of standing on their own. Juliette Greco did not need to have her story told in a (very bad) attempt at a screenplay. It merely left me lost as to what happened in her early. I never could figure that out from the book and was left going to more reliable narrators. Fulcanelli! What a wonderful story! What a fantastic movie! It was nearly impossible for me to figure out what Robb was talking about, wasting as he did so much text on vague descriptions of shadowy figures. Just say alchemists! Say it! Just say it! Skip the gray cloaks and misty dawns and croached figures. They could be wizards or dustbin men or drunks. Was the book worthwhile? Yes! A thousand times yes. Not for the writing, which seemed sometimes to be deliberately keeping me in ignorance of it's topics, but for the wonderful true stories. Hidden in "Parisians" are the stuff of legend, marvelous, marvelous stories.
  • (4/5)
    I enjoyed Robb's earlier work: [[The Discovery Of France]]. In this new book he tells stories of both major and minor historical figures who lived in Paris from the French Revolution to present. The book begins with Marie Antoinette losing her way in the streets of Paris in an attempt to escape her capture and eventual beheading. In a chapter entitled Files Of The Surete, Robb chronicles the crimes solved by Vidocq - a former criminal turned detective who modernized the Parisian police. Another chapter discusses various assassination attempts on Degaulle, including something I did not know - before Mitterand became President, he arranged a fake assassination attempt on himself. Only one chapter dragged for me - probably because it was written in the style of a screenplay. The older sections draw more from diaries than from contemporaneous news sources, As a result they tend to have the feel of historic fiction.
  • (3/5)
    This book is not a conventional narrative of the history of Paris, nor is it the comprehensive study of its denizens that its title might suggest. Rather, what Graham Robb has written is a collection of short tales about some of the people and events that have experienced and shaped the city, from a trip taken by a young Corsican lieutenant to Paris on the eve of of the French Revolution (spoiler: it's Napoleon Bonaparte) to an account of the riots by second-generation immigrants in Paris's suburbs in 2005. Robb uses these stories to illuminate the distinctive character of Parisians and how they both reflect and contributed to the development of the modern metropolis. There is considerable variety both in Robb's selections and in their presentation, as a few of the tales are presented as dialogues or scripts. Inevitably some will be of greater appeal to readers than others depending on their own interests, but nearly everyone interested in the history of the "City of Lights" will find something in its pages to entertain and inform them.
  • (3/5)
    Dit boek was een onverwachte meevaller. Robb is niet zomaar een verhaaltjesverteller. De man blijkt grondig historisch geschoold en beschikt blijkbaar over een groot literair talent. Parijs komt tot leven in een 15-tal stukjes, waarin telkens een periode uit de 19de en de 20ste eeuw (eigenlijk ook het begin van de 21ste) aan bod komen. Vooral de stukjes over de ondergrond van Parijs, over de opstand in Nieuw-Caledonië die is neergeslagen door verbannen deelnemers aan de Commune van 1871, en de rellen in de Parijse voorsteden in 2005 steken er boven uit. Maar af en toe zijn er ook missers: het alchemie-hoofdstuk en het filmscenario rond Juliette Greco zijn miskleunen
  • (3/5)
    Dit boek was een onverwachte meevaller. Robb is niet zomaar een verhaaltjesverteller. De man blijkt grondig historisch geschoold en beschikt blijkbaar over een groot literair talent. Parijs komt tot leven in een 15-tal stukjes, waarin telkens een periode uit de 19de en de 20ste eeuw (eigenlijk ook het begin van de 21ste) aan bod komen. Vooral de stukjes over de ondergrond van Parijs, over de opstand in Nieuw-Caledoni? die is neergeslagen door verbannen deelnemers aan de Commune van 1871, en de rellen in de Parijse voorsteden in 2005 steken er boven uit. Maar af en toe zijn er ook missers: het alchemie-hoofdstuk en het filmscenario rond Juliette Greco zijn miskleunen
  • (2/5)
    I've been beaten. I can't do it; I can't finish this book. The stories I've read so far are mostly really interesting, but the writing is so florid, so excessive, which such an effort to overly dramatise the narrative that I just can't dig my way through it any longer. I'm bummed, because this could have been an incredibly fascinating collection if the writer hadn't gotten in the way of the stories themselves. Perhaps someday I'll give it another go, but for now, color me defeated.
  • (3/5)
    It began really well, and the tales of medieval and Renaissance Paris before the Revolution were definitely the most well written. When it gets to more modern stuff, especially after WWII, the author takes on a weird, choppy, 'artistic' style, and I have no idea what he's talking about. The 'Black Prince?' But in between those parts, there are some good parts in the second half of the book- the piece about Vidocq, the bit about the banlieu riots, the story of the Jews escaping... my favorite slice of Paris history would have to be the Rue D'Enfer however.
  • (3/5)
    It began really well, and the tales of medieval and Renaissance Paris before the Revolution were definitely the most well written. When it gets to more modern stuff, especially after WWII, the author takes on a weird, choppy, 'artistic' style, and I have no idea what he's talking about. The 'Black Prince?' But in between those parts, there are some good parts in the second half of the book- the piece about Vidocq, the bit about the banlieu riots, the story of the Jews escaping... my favorite slice of Paris history would have to be the Rue D'Enfer however.
  • (2/5)
    Starts out interesting, with chapters about various little-known Parisians. I skipped the majority of the chapter on the inspiration for the Count of Monte Cristo because I'm only halfway through it and didn't want to risk spoiling an enjoyable read. But somewhere shortly after that chapter, things go very wrong with this book. Some of it may be due to the fact that I was listening to the audio version - one chapter seemed to be told entirely as a screenplay (or was a transcription of an actual screenplay?). It was annoying beyond belief to listen to. After that was a chapter that sounded as if it was from a textbook, including study questions with multiple choice answers. I finished listening to it because I wasn't that far from the end, really, but I ceased to care if I wasn't giving it all my attention.
  • (3/5)
    Promising start but then, oh Graham, what happened? It wandered all over the shop, so unlike its unputtdownable predecessor.
  • (2/5)
    I really, really wanted to love this book. It got such a lot of amazing press (the NYT review, in particular, I remember as being extremely gung-ho). Unfortunately, the writing style and Robb's tendency to not just take liberties with the facts, but to fabricate things out of thin air, make me unable to even like it very much. Quel déception.
  • (4/5)
    not sure I approve of the BIG NAMES approach to Paris. One of the best things of Discovery of France was Robb's interest in the little people. The Juliette Gréco divides households: I love it; my wife, not so much.
  • (3/5)
    I really loved Robb's previous book 'The Discovery of France', so I had certain expectations for this book. As before, the book consists of various vignettes or short stories bound by a common theme, in this case the city of Paris. Robb has a very nice and easy style, at once familiar with and fond of France, yet sufficiently distant so as to note its peculiarities.As has been pointed out by other readers, the quality of these parts is rather uneven: the film scenario with Juliette Gréco is particularly painful). What jarred most was the writer's tendency to describe historic events with fictionalised details. Robb has no way of knowing when exactly Hitler sighed during his tour of Paris, or what went through Napoleon's mind at a certain moment. The author probably intended to liven up his tale, but the effect is that the reader starts to doubt the veracity of the entire story. Has Mitterrand ever been the victim of a false assassination attempt, or is this too an embellishment by the author? The continuous irritating buzz of these questions interferes with the reading experience like a loud bluebottle in a quiet room.As Parisians would say: Bof.
  • (2/5)
    Occasionally an enjoyable vignette will surface in this book but most fail – worst of all are the frequent literary experiments that are embarked upon (a faux-screenplay, school examination question & answer, ect.) A book more devoted to the author’s cleverness than to Paris.
  • (4/5)
    I loved this quirky take on the history of my favourite city. I was constantly astonished by Robb's fantastic abilty to unearth tiny details with huge significance. At times this readslike a thrilling detective story - at times like a romance. Next time you go to Paris, the streets under your feet will have far greater siginificance that you could possibly have imagined before reading this book.