Paris Reborn is a compelling account of the making of the City of Light as we know it today. It traces the phenomenal rise of Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, the nephew of the great Napoleon and grandson of Empress Josephine, to the height of political power. As Emperor Napoleon III, his ruthless determination and far-sighted creativity were behind one of the grandest projects of the 19th century. Stephane Kirkland meticulously describes the medieval city, beloved by Victor Hugo, which by the 1800s had become a labyrinth infested by poverty, disease, and crime. In order to create a modern capital with broad, straight avenues, many ancient neighborhoods had to be destroyed.
The book is loaded with intriguing details, such as the fact that in the old Paris, persons of all social classes lived together in the same vicinity. Working people could walk to their places of employment. In the redesigned Paris, however, the workers were moved to the outskirts of the city so that they had to commute into the center of the town. Not only were new streets constructed but new public buildings as well. The fabulous Paris Opera, designed by the brilliant but troubled Charles Garnier, rose triumphantly amid controversy and chaos. In the meantime, the huge costs of buying multiple properties and building the new streets and public works helped to bankrupt the imperial government. Sadly, the era which saw such tremendous growth and progress for Parisians ended in a disastrous war, foreign occupation, the Commune of 1871 and the destruction of the Tuileries palace. In Paris Reborn, one of the most fascinating cities in the world is portrayed in such a lively and descriptive manner so as to be rediscovered even by those who know it well.
(*NOTE: This book was sent to me by the Historical Novel Society in exchange for my honest opinion.)Share