A History of France

Narrated by: John Julius Norwich
Length: 15 hrs and 11 mins
Categories: History, Europe
4.5 out of 5 stars (164 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

John Julius Norwich - called a "true master of narrative history" by Simon Sebag Montefiore - returns with the book he has spent his distinguished career wanting to write, A History of France, a portrait of the past two centuries of the country he loves best.

Beginning with Julius Caesar's conquest of Gaul in the first century BC, this study of French history comprises a cast of legendary characters - Charlemagne, Louis XIV, Napoleon, Joan of Arc, and Marie Antionette, to name a few - as Norwich chronicles France's often violent, always fascinating history.

From the French Revolution - after which neither France, nor the world, would be the same again - to the storming of the Bastille, from the Vichy regime and the Resistance to the end of the Second World War, A History of France is packed with heroes and villains, battles and rebellion, stories so enthralling that Norwich declared, "I can honestly say that I have never enjoyed writing a book more."

With his celebrated stylistic panache and expert command of detail, Norwich writes in an inviting, intimate tone, and with a palpable affection for France. One of our greatest contemporary historians has deftly crafted a comprehensive yet concise portrait of the country's historical sweep.

©2018 John Julius Norwich (P)2018 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"The major achievement of this book is the very fact that Norwich takes each of the four rulers to be a piece of the same story...written with often humming literary verve." (New York Times Book Review)

What listeners say about A History of France

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

I could listen to this guy read the phone book.

Great survey of French history. Doesn't go into a ton of detail, but gives you a great overview of the French people from Caesar's time to the end of WWII. Plus, Norwich has a delightful speaking voice. He sounds like you're listening to an old Englishman by the fire. Just lovely.

11 people found this helpful

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Kings and Wars

I listened to this book in preparation for a trip to France. It began promisingly, with Norwich recounting some amusing experiences as an adolescent in France. I liked the fact that Norwich was narrating his own book, with his compelling and old-fashioned English accent.

However, this book quickly revealed itself to be a narrative of kings, one after the other, and the wars they fought. One would think a history of France might actually consider the French people. This absence is ironic, given French historians' concerns with social history (as in the Annales School). How did average people live in France in the Middle Ages or during the Revolution? You won't find any of that information here.

How do the regions of France differ? What conflicts have they had? How have the provinces responded to domination by Paris? Nothing here will tell you.

And there's virtually nothing about the arts. Norwich tacks on a perfunctory chapter at the end identifying some of his preferences. But don't look here for anything about Flaubert and Zola and Proust, Debussy and Ravel, Monet and Degas and Cezanne. Here's a book about France that doesn't even mention Marie de France. But you will learn that Louis Napoleon Bonaparte died during the Anglo-Zulu war and that Garibaldi fought in the Uruguayan Civil War.

Ultimately, this book reads like a wikipedia entry on French royalty. If you want a much more comprehensive look at French history, listen to Alistair Horne's "Seven Ages of Paris." His book on this city covers much more of France, ironically, than does Norwich's book

5 people found this helpful

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Strongly recommended

In depth yet easy to follow, as it is very eloquently written. Objective yet passionate and at times witty and subtly humorous. The flowing narration by the author himself adds to the authenticity. I ended up buying a hard copy after listening to it.

4 people found this helpful

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Remarkable

Wonderful, accessible, full of heart. Loved every minute. A wonderful tour of France A+ BRAVO

1 person found this helpful

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Highly recommended, especially for the narration by the author.

Being under lockdown due to the Covid 19 virus, this review of French rulers and their history was a lovely and welcome pleasure. It felt as though I was sitting in a library, as the guest of an erudite friend with a wonderful cadence to his voice, conversing about French kings. As the days were drizzly while I listened, it seemed to add to the enjoyment.
Highly recommended.

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  • DJ
  • 12-11-19

I really enjoyed this book

I am a layman who wanted to remind himself of western European history. Not 20th century history. But the history that led to the wars of the 20th century. This book was terrific. The author / narrator was passionate about the topic.

The book itself was well written.

I would truly recommend this book.

If anyone has a recommendation of a similar book about ancient Germania to present, please let me know.

1 person found this helpful

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Great narrative from a passionate author

It is difficult to cover 1400 years in one book but this did a great job of hitting the important ebbs and flows and talking about France. I really enjoyed the perspectives on how France has come to define it's changing relationships with numerous European powers over the years.

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    4 out of 5 stars

good book, but need some backup knowledge

it's a well-written book and tells a good history of France. However, you need to have a reasonable knowledge of French history going in to fully appreciate this book. The book covers so much history that you only hit a few high points of the things most people are only basically familiar with.

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PERFECTION!!!

I wish I could give this 6 stars to the text, and 7 to the reading. Magnifique!!!

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So So

There are significant portions of this book that I found to be fascinating - the French Revolution, Napoleon, and the first and second world wars. A lot of the other information covered in the book was paper thin - not a lot of depth or detail. The book ends rather abruptly with the ending of the Second World War. Narration was above average by the Author Mr Norwich, which seem to lend authenticity to the content. If you are looking for an in depth history book on France, this may not be what you want, but it is nevertheless interesting for many of the topics that it covers.