This 800 page epic novel follows six families from 1261-1968 and tucks in both historical and religious histories and uprisings. The book begins with several pages of maps and family trees to aid readers in following the intertwining stories of families from every class and area of Paris.
From Montmarte and the Sacre Coeur to the Marias and the Place des Vosges, Rutherfurd travels through many bistros, art galleries, brothels and churches around the city. Rutherfurd also dives deeply into the role of church and religion in the politics, wars and laws of the nation.
A large portion of the first quarter of the book is dedicated to the design and construction of the Eiffel Tower. The fictional characters tell of real historical facts about the building and its complicated early relationship with Paris. It is delicious fun as the metro is introduced, great department stores are created and mistresses and lovers are found and lost.
The ugly history of religious righteousness is sadly repeated from the massacre at the Feast of Saint Bartholomew to the Nazi invasion and murder of Jews. Rutherfurd also includes famous historical figures. Painter Claude Monet and writer Ernest Hemingway both appear as well as numerous mentions to other working artisans throughout the ages.
The weaknesses of Paris lie in the sexist undertones and lack of emotion and passion in both the writing and the characters. Rutherfurd is a master at telling a compelling historical narrative but if he could also impart passion into the narrative his books would be phenomenal. There is little poetry to his language and although that suits a majority of the text, poetry would add to the intensity of the relationships and love interests.
Perhaps the greatest evidence of lack of emotion comes in the last quarter of the book which ranges from 1936 through the completion of World War II. While we follow the stories of central characters whom we have loved and followed from their birth the characters themselves are virtually un-phased by the horrors that they witness around them.
Overall Paris is an enjoyable read for those who appreciate a deep dive into historical fiction as long as readers realize that this epic does not include a ravenous love story.
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Pub date: 2013
Page Count: 809
Publisher: Ballantine Books