THE HISTORY OF FRANCE: As Told to Juliette by Jean Duche

THE HISTORY OF FRANCE: As Told to Juliette

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This book must have been something in the nature of an electric shock to the staid historians and teachers of history in France -- and equally, no doubt, to the English. For it is wholly unorthodox in its approach to the somewhat bizarre pattern of French history- and, alas, for most American readers, demands- for the greater part- a background that too few of us have. It is lively, amusing at times, frequently iconoclastic. Familiar phases of French history appear almost distorted and with emphasis shifted. But it has two major weaknesses for our readers:- the form Jean Duche has chosen in which to place his material; and the necessity of having a reasonably sound basis of familiarity with France's story in order to keep this new presentation in perspective. There is an immense amount of research and scholarship involved in the very flexibility of approach, but a hurdle in telling the story through a sort of Wandering Celt, Chronossus, born 29 centuries ago, and encountered at Les Eyzies in the vicinity of the Lascaux Caves. To him time is telescoped and of small moment, and he is constantly brought up short in his swift outline of history by interruptions on the part of Juliette, a young woman of today to whom he is talking. This give-and-take injects a disruptive element that in turn demands equal give-and-take on the part of the reader, a participation in the act of reading to which most of us are unaccustomed. And yet, once the method is compassed and accepted, the story takes pattern, the descriptions of ways of life, the interpretation of events and personalities and thinking brings to successive eras from Roman Gaul to pre-1914 France a vitality and authenticity of detail that gives an immediacy even to the dim past.

Publisher: Roy