Narrated by: Edward Hermann
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Category: Narrative Non-fiction
Synopsis: A chronicle of Americans in Paris from 1930 until 1900, touching on both the political, the medical and the artists. These individuals were inspired by what they saw and in turn inspired others in both the US and Paris.
My Thoughts: I didn’t love this book as much as I wanted to. I had many of the same problems as Colleen at My Love of Books. I did persist and finish the book because by the time I had the thought to quit there were some stories I was hoping that McCullough would tie up, which he did in a way.
My biggest problem was the fact that he tried too focus on to many people. The story thus becomes fractured, especially when he refers back to people he has already talked about. This is especially tricky when you are listening to it in audio because you can’t go back and refresh your memory about whose who the same way you can in print. I also found the jumping from art, to medicine, to politics, and back to art to be very jarring.
I did have parts I really enjoyed, I especially liked the part about Mary Cassatt and John Singer Sargent. The impressionists have been some of my favourite painters ever since I was a little girl and for me hearing these peoples stories gave me some great insights. I would have preferred a focus on these two and perhaps some others of their contemporaries. The contrast between the private of Cassatt and the public of Singer Sargent was fascinating to me.
I did like that there was a fairly even balance between men and women who were featured. I’ve already mentioned Mary Cassatt but McCullough also featured a female medical student, Elizabeth Blackwell, which I really appreciated. I also liked how this book tied with the book I had listened to before: At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson.
Overall I wouldn’t recommend this book as a “go out and buy right now”, but rather borrow it from the library to see if you enjoy it first. And perhaps only read portions as they interest you.
I am not sure if I should comment on this here or not…but I will. I listened to the book on my iPhone using the Audible.com app and I am a bit sceptical. If I looked at the chapter list in the app there were a lot more chapters than there actually was in the book and this really bugged me. I wanted to know the chapters so that I could jump back. But this way it was difficult to get a grip over what was going on.