The Greater JourneyPosted: February 10, 2014
The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris
Simon & Schuster, 578 pages
Kindle Edition $12.38, Amazon Paperback $14.66
This book delivers what it promises. It recounts the story of Americans in Paris. In particular, it is the story of Americans in Paris in the second half of the nineteenth century. McCullough writes about Samuel F.B. Morse, James Fenimore Cooper, the painter George Catlin, P.T. Barnum, and many others who spent time in France. I certainly learned a number of things that I didn’t know, including the fact that Samuel F.B. Morse was first a painter, and only gave up painting when the telegraph caught on.
France in the second half of the nineteenth century wasn’t necessarily a stable place politically. The government underwent multiple coups and revolutions in that period, and McCullough necessarily describes those events and how they affected the Americans living in France when they occurred. Which brings me to the question of why I read the book in the first place. The political history of France doesn’t much interest me, and the expatriates living in Paris about whom I want to read are those who were there in the twentieth century between the two world wars: the Ernest Hemmingways and the Gertrude Steins.
I suppose I had this feeling that I “needed” to read a David McCullough book. Certainly McCullough has a clear, solid prose style, but it’s not writing I admire for the writing’s sake. The book is well-researched. It may appear intimidating at 578 pages, but perhaps forty percent of the book is the back matter. There are also several places where the text is interrupted for several pages of pictures.
Still, if the subject matter interests you, you will not be disappointed. As for me, I’ve read my McCullough and I’m moving on.