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.
I have read several of McCullough's books and have found each one to be enjoyable and educational. In The Greater Journey, he maximizes his gift as a biographer by weaving a fascinating cast of characters together during a pivotal time in American and European history. While reading this book, I have had the opportunity to visit several art museums and view works by the artists he writes about from France and America. My visits to the museums as well as to symphony performances were enriched through the reading of this outstanding book. Thank you, Mr. McCullough!
14 of 14 people found this review helpful
Lovers of Mcculloughs work were thrown an unexpected curve ball on this one. Firstly the topic of this book isn't as strong and defined as his other work and I think that that hurt his biggest fans expectations. The quality of the writing was also not quite up to par compared to his other work, which was a disappointment and surprising, because all his other books were so consistent in their greatness.
Having said all this, Mccullough's second best is still better than most others best. I to, was somewhat bewildered and disappointed as I made my way through the book but at some point my impression changed and I began to appreciate the underlying message of the stories related and by the the time I got to the end, those stories had a profound effect on me. I was elated by the examples of lives lived with such a beautiful balance. lives with art, music,and intellectual endeavors and friendships ingrained so deeply it was a heartwarming and exciting example of what life could be. Where a simple walk in a park could be a cherished memory for life. Where the values of/ in yourself and those around you were so wonderfully tuned enabling far greater depths in your relationships with friendship and family.
These are the things I got out of the book in the end and I suspect these are the things in the end that Mccullough was hoping to convey. Its this valuable revelation that elevates this book to 4 stars.
13 of 13 people found this review helpful
Kudos to Mr. McCullough! The book is this good: I raved about it to many friends and last week received an email from one of them. He was about 1/4 of the way into it and he sent me an email thanking me for recommending it because he was already enjoying it that much . . .
. . . it's that good.
I'm an artist, and teacher, and I've led trips to Paris as well as lived there, so obviously the appeal is there for me, but my mother, who has only visited twice and doesn't have the same background enjoyed it just as much as I did.
A fabulous effort. I'll be shocked if it doesn't win the Pulitzer Prize again for Mr. McCullough.
23 of 24 people found this review helpful
McCullough is simply sublime at weaving history for the layman. Being a layman himself and not a professional academic, his approach is soft, focusing on the important people of the 19th century who traveled to Paris from the US. The book gives the listener a great street-level view of French history along with a peek into 19th art, architecture, and medicine. Also, you can't beat the soothing tones of Edward Hermann.
10 of 10 people found this review helpful
What can you say other than a good listen. This isn't like a page turner thriller but it is intereseting enough to keep you plugging away. I also listened to 1776 and John Adams and enjoyed all three books. The author puts together a history based on all the facts he can find and writes a good rendition of what it must've been like.
9 of 9 people found this review helpful
A thoroughly enjoyable, intriguing view of people and events. The interplay of great artists, writers and other notables, particularly during their most formative years, is absoloutely fascinating. Edward Herrmann's narration is, as always, outstanding. A great read and highly recommended.
29 of 31 people found this review helpful
I agree with Rick and jesse's reviews. I didn't know what to expect but I took a bit of chance because: a) author has been so reliable; and b) outline of book.
The story is not a linear unfolding of a person's life as in 'John Adams'. It is a somewhat linear story (although the timeline is not always straight*) of some noteworthy Americans (some readily known and some more obscure) and how their journey's to Paris impacted first, their lives and ultimately their impact on art, medicine, innovation and on a growing America.
At that time, the knowledge and experience of the arts and medicine in Paris was vastly more than in the US. The people profiled in these pages mostly traveled there, in difficult circumstances, to gain knowledge and expertise. But it isn't only about how Paris affected some Americans. Many of these people also made their own impact on Paris and the arts. The particularly heartwarming story of Elihu Washburne illustrates how an American affected so many lives compassionately in a time of war.
I was very glad I chose this book and looked forward to listening to it every day. The stories of the struggling and ultimately acclaimed American artists will prod me to investigate them more and see some of their artworks.
*Often, Mr McCullough will unfold the actions of a main character when he/she is an adult at the time of traveling to or being in Paris. Then, later, he will tell the back-story of that person. It was easy to get used to.
38 of 41 people found this review helpful
There is no doubt that I always learn something new each time I listen to another title from David McCullough. I really like his writing on history without any personal bias. He is the best historian writer in our time, maybe even one of the greatest.
"The Greater Journey Americans in Paris" is like a precursor of what is to come for many decades. The book establish the inventions, modern art, and science in medicine and also finer things in life. Instead of getting another explanation on another war, you look forward to at smelling the roses in Paris.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
Although relatively lengthy, I found that this book went by quickly and in a very entertaining manner. McCullough does a very nice job weaving together the stories of many Americans who spent considerable time in Paris during the 19th Century. While some prior reviewers found the story a little disjointed, it is told in a chronological matter and I never found the story difficult to follow. The number of upheavals that Paris experienced during this Century is explained in considerable detail, describing the human suffering and the courage and humanity of American visitors during this time. But equally important is what Americans were able to take away and bring back to the U.S. that is fascinating. While many are aware that Paris representing the peak of culture at this time, I'm not so sure many of us knew the primacy of Paris in the field of medicine and the contributions it made to early American doctors. It is also interesting to follow the advance of America from a large but nascent country to standing on the precipice of greatness that would be realized during the next century that is so well described by McCullough as he describes the advances being made through the industrialization of the U.S. and innovations in communications (telegraph) by a man starting as an artist in Paris and leaving Paris with an idea about transmission of dots and dashes over wires that would dramatically change the speed of communications.
And, of course, the narration by Edward Herrmann is beyond reproach. I never tire of books narrated by Mr. Herrmann.
15 of 16 people found this review helpful
I only got this book because of the author, and he did not fail to deliver. An excellent read that depicts the a fascinating array of subjects not covered in your typical histories. Another wonderful work by America's greatest living historian.
18 of 20 people found this review helpful