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After risking the hazardous journey across the Atlantic, these Americans embarked on a greater journey in the City of Light. That they achieved so much for themselves and their country profoundly altered American history. As David McCullough writes, "Not all pioneers went west."
Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female doctor in America, was one of this intrepid band. Another was Charles Sumner, who enrolled at the Sorbonne because of a burning desire to know more about everything. There he saw black students with the same ambition he had, and when he returned home, he would become the most powerful, unyielding voice for abolition in the U.S. Senate, almost at the cost of his life.
Writers Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mark Twain, and Henry James were all "discovering" Paris, marveling at the treasures in the Louvre, or out with the Sunday throngs strolling the city's boulevards and gardens. "At last I have come into a dreamland," wrote Harriet Beecher Stowe, seeking escape from the notoriety Uncle Tom's Cabin had brought her. Sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens and painters Mary Cassatt and John Singer Sargent, three great American artists, flourished in Paris, inspired by French masters and the city itself.
McCullough tells this sweeping, fascinating story with power and intimacy, bringing us into the lives of remarkable men and women. The Greater Journey is itself a masterpiece.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2011-07-25
- Reviewer: Staff
This detailed and riveting book from award-winning historian McCullough traces the lives of several high-profile Americans—including Oliver Wendell Holms, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Mark Twain—who, in the 19th century, found themselves in Paris. McCullough limns the impact that Parisian sojourns had upon these travelers and contrasts their lives in France with events occurring in the United States. Co-narrator (and actor) Edward Herrmann provides a stronger narration than the author, however. While McCullough, with his deep voice, grabs listeners' attention initially, he lacks the ability to maintain that interest, as his emphasis, tone, and energy wears over time. Herrmann's ability, on the other hand, to emphasize different facts through deliberate speech and tone, while moving more quickly through less complicated material, makes listening enjoyable and easygoing. A Simon & Schuster hardcover. (May)
Drawn to the City of Light
When it comes to making history live, nobody does it better than David McCullough. Now, with The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris, he’s done it again in spades. You won’t find Hemingway or Gertrude Stein or any of the Americans we usually associate with the City of Light. The Yankees in McCullough’s account were the first wave of “talented, aspiring Americans” who began to make the transformative, transatlantic voyage in increasing numbers in the 1830s. From James Fenimore Cooper, Samuel F.B. Morse, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Elizabeth Blackwell to Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent and Harriet Beecher Stowe, they came to learn and to immerse themselves in a kindred yet very different culture where wine was cheaper than milk, the food was fabulous, the boulevards were broad and the astounding treasures of the Louvre were open to the public. Weaving detailed bios of these Americans into the colorful fabric of Parisian history from 1830 to 1900, McCullough makes excellent use of his ability to simultaneously entertain and educate, while master narrator Edward Herrmann’s perfect pacing makes this journey from apple pie to tarte tatin into compelling listening.
CASE OF THE GREEN PARROTS
Though Claire DeWitt may have started her detecting career as a Nancy Drew-ish kid, the older investigator, whom we meet in the first installment of Sara Gran’s quirky, genre-bending series, Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, moves in a bleak world where, as Raymond Chandler would say, “the streets were dark with something more than night.” But crack the tough, take-no-prisoners façade and you’ll find a woman with an odd mystical core, who follows the abstruse, enigmatic precepts of an abstruse, enigmatic French detective, rarely says no to drugs, finds clues in dreams and throws the I Ching. Back in New Orleans, just after Katrina, to find a missing D.A., Claire is instantly immersed in a maelstrom of malaise, dislocation, disillusionment and gratuitous violence but, while solving the case, she may have found a young acolyte and, through him, a touch of redemption. Carol Monda reads in a voice and style that’s noir personified—aloof, ironic, ideally tailored to Claire and her grim surroundings.
AUDIO OF THE MONTH
Contrary to the hyper-hype surrounding the release of Jo Nesbø’s latest Harry Hole mystery, The Snowman, superbly narrated here by Robin Sachs, Nesbø is not the next Stieg Larsson and Harry is not a stand-in for Mikael Blomkvist. But that elusive something about Scandinavian crime fiction that has grabbed American attention is here—big-time. There’s a serial killer in Oslo, perhaps the first ever in Norway, preying on married women with children, and each murder is accompanied by a snowman built of new-fallen snow. As Harry, beset by inner demons, debilitating bouts of binge drinking and a wrecked romance, digs deeper, he and his new associate, an almost preternaturally canny and collected young policewoman, uncover a pattern that goes back for years. Yet, over and over again, just when you think he’s got his grisly guy, the storyline swerves and the suspect is exonerated—until you get to the gasp moment, when all the elements in this brilliantly conceived plot fall into place.