SEDUCTIVE JOURNEY by Harvey Levenstein

SEDUCTIVE JOURNEY

American Tourists in France from Jefferson to the Jazz Age
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A lively social history of the varied delights (ranging from food to sex, and from racial equality to the Louvre) that have at times drawn Americans to France. Levenstein (The Paradox of Plenty, 1992, etc.), author of several acclaimed volumes on the social history of eating in America, provides an entertaining and insightful overview of the very nature of France’s centuries-long seduction of Americans. Beginning in the late 18th century, when travel was limited to wealthy young blades, and ending in the 1920s, when men and women of different races and classes poured into France, Levenstein’s account is filled with anecdotes and details derived primarily from the many memoirs, archives, and secondary literature that support the text. Through a skillful weaving of narrative and citations, he relates how improvements in transportation changed the trip abroad for Americans from a life-threatening, sickening sea voyage to a vacation in and of itself aboard luxury liners; he reveals, as well, how the visitors reacted to French art and prostitution. While all this is entertaining and informative, Seductive Journey is also a serious study of transformations of race, class structure, and gender occurring within American and French society and reflected in American Francophile tourism. We glimpse the “cultural tourism” of Thomas Jefferson’s day, characterized by extended Grand Tours, as it shifted into the “leisure tourism” that defined American travel to France in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The rise of mass recreational tourism lies at the heart of Levenstein’s appraisal of these changes. His book, though, ends on a more somber note, with the flight of America’s blacks to a country more racially tolerant than —home,— and with a French backlash against American tourists in the 1920s, when Americans were attacked by the frustrated French, who considered them misers. Enjoyable for scholars, travelers, and armchair dwellers alike. (41 b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-226-47376-7
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Univ. of Chicago
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1998