An entry in the History Through Art series, intended to trace the history of France by discussing its art, which at first seems like a natural way to recall the times before photography and film existed. Powell (Art in the Nineteenth Century, 1994, not reviewed) examines the cave paintings at Lascaux and then lights on icons of French culture--Charlemagne, Joan of Arc, the French Revolution, and DeGaulle--in one swoop. In covering so much ground, the text is--by necessity--clipped and to the point, offering facts and dates but lacking the anecdotes, stories, drama, and insights that make history vivid. As an art history volume, the book fails for similar reasons. Captions reiterate facts, but give little information about the painting, the artist, or even the time period the painting represents. Jean Huber's image in ""Voltaire Getting Out of Bed,"" of a hopping, half-dressed man, possibly presents an image of Voltaire as a free thinker, but the image begs for interpretation or explanation; young readers won't know if it's meant to be a compliment or insult. This volume elicits little excitement for either France or its art; the coverage is perfunctory, never stirring.