Parisians is a wonderfully rich, engaging, engrossing stroll through the lesser known stories that populate the history of Paris.
I say stroll deliberately.
Robb has chosen stories that highlight the streets and buildings of Paris.
We see a young Napoleon visiting Paris on family business, strolling around the Palais-Royal and losing his virginity.
We see Charles-Axel Guillaumot and his work (obsession) with the Catacombs - the map of under Paris was more complete & accurate than the one above ground at that time!
We see Marie-Antoinette wandering around lost, trying to find the rendezvous point for their infamous near-escape from Paris.
We see the real life story behind Dumas' Count of Monte Cristo.
And we see Madame Zola view Paris from atop the brand new Eiffel Tower & learn of her husband's affair.
Each story is a snapshot. A fleshed out, personal glimpse into one small section of a life, a street, a house, a quartier. Robb's storytelling abilities brings each vignette to life - full of the complexities, uncertainties & messiness of real life.
The only problem I have with the book is the double page map at the beginning - it's too small to read the names of the streets and building properly! (And I have the original HB from 2010, not the smaller PB that came out later).
I like to know which area of Paris each chapter is set in. I want my fingers to stroll down the streets and around the buildings along with all the people who populate this book.
I started this book a few days ago in anticipation.
I have been counting down to Zoladdiction hosted by Fanda @Classiclit!
I was very tempted to start one of my books, but decided to do some 'setting the scene' reading instead.
When I discovered that one of the chapters in Parisians was 'Madame Zola', I knew I had found the book to tide me over and get me in the mood.
My knowledge & understanding of Zola is limited to the few introductory bio's in the the few Zola books I have on hand.
I know that he was born April 2, 1840 & given the moniker Émile Édouard Charles Antoine Zola! I know that he wrote the Rougon-Macquart series of books as well as the famous J'accuse letter in defence of Alfred Dreyfus.
He married Alexandrine, but had an affair and 2 children with Jeanne. In one bio I read I was informed that Alexandrine forgave him his indiscretions and helped to raise the 2 children.
Which made the final paragraph of Parisians: Madame Zola even more interesting.
Robb finished this chapter with an excerpt of a letter from Alexandrine to Jeanne after Émile's death...
"The demonstrations of homage to our dear great hero were
truly magnificent. The future bodes well for the father
of our dear children. One day, they will want to find
out all they can about the labours to which he devoted
his life before it was cut short. I hope they will
understand that by the manner in which they comport
themselves they will help to preserve the glory of the
name Zola. You will be there to direct them and to t
each them many things - unfortunately far fewer than I
might have taught them, for you did not know him as well
as I, who lived at his side for thirty-eight years.
His violent death has struck us both a cruel blow, and
in our suffering, the affection of his children has been a
great happiness to me. I feel as though their affection
comes from him, and this makes me cherish them even more
than I would have thought possible."
Ouch! That bitch-slap still reverberates 112 years later!
On that note...which Zola to get stuck into?
I have pb copies of Nana, The Ladies' Delight (Au Bonheur des Dames) and The Dream. I also have Germinal on my epad partially read (I dislike reading the screen which is the only reason I haven't finished it.
Parisians also counts as a book from my TBR pile, Around the World & Books on France Reading Challenges.