France on the Brink: A Great Civilization in the New Century

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Overview


This completely revised and fully updated edition of the book Bill Bryson called “superb” presents a sharply insightful, authoritative portrait of France today as it struggles to live up to its vision of itself amid storm clouds that won’t go away.

France on the Brink was chosen as a New York Times book of the year and hailed by the Wall Street Journal as “a comprehensive and entertaining diagnosis of what ails French society” when the first edition was published at the turn of...

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France on the Brink: A Great Civilization in the New Century

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Overview


This completely revised and fully updated edition of the book Bill Bryson called “superb” presents a sharply insightful, authoritative portrait of France today as it struggles to live up to its vision of itself amid storm clouds that won’t go away.

France on the Brink was chosen as a New York Times book of the year and hailed by the Wall Street Journal as “a comprehensive and entertaining diagnosis of what ails French society” when the first edition was published at the turn of the century. Since then, the crisis enveloping France has only worsened, and this second edition, completely revamped to cover the developments of the past fifteen years, offers a fresh assessment of where the nation stands. New chapters chart political developments under Presidents Chirac, Sarkozy, and Hollande; the rise of the hard right National Front; and the unrelenting economic woes that have led to unprecedented levels of disillusion and fragmentation. The country’s social evolution is covered comprehensively, with description and analysis of urban and rural life, regional divisions, tensions over immigration and the fading of the symbols that denoted France’s greatness.

High unemployment, an archaic economic system, a self-selecting governing class unable to handle serious problems, and a debilitating clash between individualism and the powerful state machine that was built on a foundation reaching back to the Revolution of 1789 continue to plague the nation, making it less able than ever to fulfill its role as a world leader. The economic crisis and the European Union’s ongoing fiscal instability, as well as a parade of scandals at the top, have left it weaker than ever halfway into the second decade of the new century.

Jonathan Fenby has covered France for fifty years. In this new edition, he offers a loving though candid and unvarnished picture of the nation, contrasting its glorious past with current realities. He explores not only the problems and the challenges but also the opportunities that lie ahead if only its political class can finally face reality—and carry the people along with them. Filled with contemporary and historical anecdotes, France on the Brink depicts the many contradictory aspects of the world’s most complex, seductive, and sometimes infuriating country, and will give even the most knowledgeable Francophile plenty to think about.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“The most comprehensive and entertaining tour [of France] to appear in a long time . . . A searching diagnosis for what ails French society.”—Wall Street Journal

“Fascinating, . . . a fine, immensely readable work of reportage.”—Boston Globe

“A highly readable description of France’s current travails, full of vivid portraits and anecdotes.”—Washington Post Book World

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781628723175
  • Publisher: Arcade Publishing
  • Publication date: 8/5/2014
  • Edition description: Second Edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 719,206
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author


Jonathan Fenby reported from France for a variety of newspapers, including the Economist, Christian Science Monitor, Times of London, Guardian, and London Observer. Married to a Frenchwoman, he was, to his surprise, made a Chevalier of the French Order of Merit in 1990. He is also the author of acclaimed biographies of Charles de Gaulle and Chiang Kai-shek, among other works. He lives in England.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 6, 2014

    Now understand France! VERDICT: Enjoying the beach in Southern F

    Now understand France!
    VERDICT: Enjoying the beach in Southern France is fine. If you want to go deeper and start understanding the current social, economic, and political situation of that country, this is THE book you need to read.

    In this totally updated edition of France on the Brink (which includes data about President Hollande), Jonathan Fenby tries to understand a country that may seem puzzling to many: it attracts millions of tourists every year, 84 millions in 2013, Americans have a very romantic a view about anything and everything French, yet at the same time France is experiencing “double-digit unemployment, a rampant extremist party of the far right and [they are] a people who reject the elite that has ruled them for decades” (p.x). The French are notoriously unhappy, despairing, and complaining about many things if not all, especially about their economy and their political leaders. To understand what’s going one, Fenby gives us a “portrait of France today and a longer -range account of the evolution of the country” (p.xi) since the 1950s.

    This nonfiction book deserves more than my usual review format. I will try to sum up some main elements of each chapter, including many quotations.To reach it, type my reviewer name, wordsandpeace, in a search engine, and my site should come up on top.

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  • Posted August 3, 2014

    France on the Brink by Jonathan Fenby was a fascinating read. Al

    France on the Brink by Jonathan Fenby was a fascinating read. Although I think I'm pretty knowledgeable about current events and political situations there were many interesting things that I did not know about France, french culture and french people.  I found this book to be very interesting and very informative.  It's 400 plus pages so there is a wealth of information.  What distinguished this book for me was the authors voice throughout.  It felt like a very personal journey through France and its history.




    Fenby deals with a lot of tough topics and he is very honest and candid about some of the aspects of France that aren't as glamorous as expected.  I specifically fond it very interesting that such a high number of french people are looking to retire outside of France.  The discontent with French politics was very interesting but I personally think that this discontentment could be shared with a large part of Europe.  I found his portrait of Chirac to be very blunt and straightforward. 




    One of my favorite parts was the wealth of french culture and history, it was described with such richness that its easy to see why France is still revered. One aspect that I found a little surprising was the ethnic diversity and also some of the prejudices held.  I found this to be a little surprising.  If anyone is looking to learn and read about the current situation of french life this is a must read.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and learned much more than I had expected.   

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