Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolutionby Simon Schama
Instead of the dying Old Regime, Schama presents an ebullient country, vital and inventive, infatuated with novelty and technology -- a strikingly fresh view of Louis XVI's France. A New York Times bestseller in hardcover. 200 illustrations.
"One of The Best Books Of The Decade." Time
"Monumental...a delight to read...Lively descriptions of major events, colorful cameos of leading characters (and obscure ones too), bring them to life here as no other general work has done....Above all, Mr. Schama tells a story, and he tells it well." The New York Times Book Review
"Citizens, like the great 19th-century narratives it emulates, makes entertainment and erudition work hand in hand....As no other recent historian of the revolution, Schama brings to life the excitement and harrowing terror of an epochal human event." Newsweek
"A fresh and elegant narrative...A brilliantly readable and beautifully illustrated account." Washington Post Book World
"We are in the hands of a master storyteller...Vivid, dramatic, thought-provoking...Schama's portrait of the revolution is often surprising...His splendid recounting convinces us that much of what we thought we knew is wrong." Time
- Penguin Books, Limited (UK)
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Meet the Author
Simon Schama is the prize-winning author of seven acclaimed books. An art critic and essayist for The New Yorker, he also writes and presents documentaries for BBC television. He is University Professor of Art History and History at Columbia University and lives outside New York City.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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This excellent book should appeal to both the scholar and the interested amateur student of history with its fascinating depiction of the causes, events, and personalities of the French Revolution. The hundreds of illustrations serve the text very well. This is serious history that reads like a novel--a very long and complex novel, to be sure. It has its faults; I would have preferred that it continue the history of the Revolution at least to the beginning of the Directory rather than conclude with an abrupt cutoff (no pun intended) at the death of Robespierre and the end of the Terror. And there are some minor but glaring errors of fact that should have been caught by the author, editor, or even copy editor. But overall, a grand and ambitious history.
Let's me be the first to day that I enjoy Mr. Schama's style and the wit that I have seen in his television presentations on British history and art. But this book is so expansive, so detailed, that it becomes too much to take in. And after all the time I'd spent digesting the material, the only answer I have for the violence and utter turmoil behind the French Revolution was that the nation was collectively insane. After you get past the basic point—"it's the economy stupid"— all you get is internecine warfare, and vitriol-spouting pols prodding on a generation of malcontents to go collectively nuts. Unfortunately after awhile even the author seems bogged down in the minute details of EVERYTHING and that means we have no real focus. Then the book becomes a sort of tedious text where the reader slogs through it not because it's enjoyable but because it's a badge of honor. If you are an amateur student of history then I can't recommend this book. If you're a professor trying to inflict the most amount of pain on students or are interested in using this as a text, then go to it! In the meantime I'll try to find another book that explains French character and how a revolution shouting out "Liberty, Fraternity and Equality" could offer so little and provide even less to those people affected by it. This is an occasion when perhaps a little less research would've freed the author's narrative talent to do the subject justice.