Friday, February 05, 2016
Paris by Edward Rutherford
Posted by JaneGS
I love Edward Rutherford's sagas of a place, usually a city, that span centuries and follow several families through time and generations as their fortunes rise and fall. Paris was different from the others that I've read (i.e., New York, London, Sarum, etc) in that he didn't tell his story strictly chronologically, which made it a bit hard to follow at times, but overall I enjoyed learning about Paris through the stories of its citizens, landmarks, and geography.
The main story line begins with the building of the Eiffel Tower in the 1880's and ends with the liberation of Paris at the end of WWII. I loved reading about Thomas Gascon, who talks Eiffel into hiring him as a laborer, and who witnesses the funeral of Victor Hugo, and ends up igniting the Resistance in Paris. I also enjoyed reading about his devil of a handsome, charming brother, Luc, whose amoral behavior burdens Thomas.
Other wonderful characters include those of the bourgeois Blanchard family, the aristocratic de Cynges, and the radical Le Sourds. I absolutely loved Eloise Blanchard, who supported the early Impressionist artists, and her niece Marie who reinvents herself a few times, developing a boutique department store in Paris and then retiring to the Loire Valley during WWII and helping the Resistance in her own marvelous way. And then there's Louise, a bastard child who discovers her parentage on her way to becoming Madam of notorious brothel. All good stuff, right?
Personally I think the book would have been stronger if Rutherford had kept to a linear arc rather than jumping around, but given the number of books that he's done in that way, perhaps he felt like experimenting a bit with Paris.
The best parts of the book were when he returned to the main story thread--from the 1880s to the 1940s. I didn't feel like the parts about the French Revolution or the Middle Ages added that much to my enjoyment of the story. Maybe too, though, I wanted to read more about the French Resistance during WWII, having just finished All the Light We Cannot See.
Now, I would love to see Rutherford tackle Rome. I would read that novel for sure!