The Greater Journey is the enthralling, inspiring - and until now, untold - story of the adventurous American artists, writers, doctors, politicians, architects, and others of high aspiration who set off for Paris in the years between 1830 and 1900, ambitious to excel in their work.
After risking the hazardous journey across the Atlantic, these Americans embarked on a greater journey in the City of Light. Most had never left home, never experienced a different culture. None had any guarantee of success. That they achieved so much for themselves and their country profoundly altered American history.
As David McCullough writes, “Not all pioneers went west.”
Nearly all of the Americans profiled here - including Elizabeth Blackwell, James Fenimore Cooper, Mark Twain, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Harriet Beecher Stowe - whatever their troubles learning French, their spells of homesickness, and their suffering in the raw cold winters by the Seine, spent many of the happiest days and nights of their lives in Paris. McCullough tells this sweeping, fascinating story with power and intimacy, bringing us into the lives of remarkable men and women who, in Saint-Gaudens’s phrase, longed “to soar into the blue”. The Greater Journey is itself a masterpiece.
©2011 David McCullough (P)2011 Simon & Schuster
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.
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.
Probably not -- I started out enjoying it, but it went on too long. Stopped listening half way through.
On this book, I found them to be complimentary. I was unfamiliar with many of the central figures and acts in this time and found those details easier to grasp with the printed version. Once I had established that base of knowledge I was enraptured by the audio edition.
How new all of the information was to me. It was really the dawn of pure Americanism.
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