Entertaining and highly informative. The 19th century Americans overseas are well-fleshed out in these narratives. The French are laid bare to expose their worst foibles and endearing eccentricities.
This book is wonderfully difficult to describe. It is a loosely connected collection of stories about Americans who spent time in Paris. However the richness of the stories and the power of their personalities shine. I felt a connection with almost all of the individuals.
Beyond just the biographical vignettes, the book is a wonderful look at life at the time. The chapter on the training of doctors will no doubt make you thankful for our medical advances today. The details that McCullough gives on various topics from transportation to medicine to revolutions are tremendous.
The first section is narrated by McCullough himself. I love his voice and was afraid the narration would drop in quality, but Herrmann does a spectacular job.
As with all of McCullough's books, "The Greater Journey" is filled with memorable characters--James Fennimore Cooper; Samuel B. Morse; Augustus St. Gaudens; and best of all, Elihu Washburne, the hero of the siege of Paris. McCullough's material here lacks the same strong narrative thread that makes works like "1776" and "Truman" as irresistable as potato chips. Instead, there are several narrative clusters: Cooper and Morse, which is full of quotes from wonderful letters and diaries; Washburne's time as ambassador, which will make you proud to be an American and amazed that his name is not better known; and the artists of the late 19th century, such as St. Gaudens, Whistler, and Cassatt. The first two clusters are fascinating; the last merely interesting--and the end a weak fade-out. But it's still far better than 90% of the other history audiobooks on this site, and Edward Herrmann is McCullough's best reader (after Nelson Runger).
Hate to "dis" the audio version but you simply have to have the maps, illustrations, maybe even illustrations beyond what the print version offers. Nevertheless, very good. That said, this author writes to illuminate, not to fit readers' expectations. That is commendable. It also produces books that are admirable to say the least but do not in fact always entertain as much as their quality might merit. Good read but be ready to think not just listen.
Entertaining and informative, this book is a delight. I enjoyed learning about Paris as much as I did learning about the American's who lived and learned there.
I have read McCullough's book on the life of John Adams and found it excellent so I was looking forward to this one. Maybe it was just me but I could not get into this book. It was well researched and well written but not very interesting. I normally enjoy listening to history but this book was very disjointed with no continuing story line. I forced myself to finish it but can't say I enjoyed it.
I have to agree with other reviewers that this is not his best book. There is no doubt about his thorough research but it would have been helpful to better organize and filter it to make it a compelling read. As it is it reads like an encyclopedia of Americans in Paris set on shuffle.
McCullough writes very in depth about his characters but frankly, the people in this book are surprisingly boring and the story is really dragged down because of it.
I usually love McCullough's books and I've read them all. I didn't think he could write a bad book, but this one is awful. The work is disjointed and trivial, an embarrassing effort by a usual superb author. What happened?
The narrator, Edward Hermann, sounds like he has a bad cold and worse yet, slurs his words. Insult to injury, he also mispronounces many of them. As a simple example, he pronounces "Liszt" as "List" ... While I understand that not everyone is a musician and knows the correct pronunciation, the narrator should get it right. It comes with the job. Liszt was a composer, not an auction on Ebay,
I love David McCullough which is why I bought this book and started reading it automatically. What a disappointment! Lots of scenes but no real themes, no real threads, no real story. It was as if he threw together 500 note cards and called it a book. Let's all hope he returns to the great David McCullough in his next book. Give this one a pass.