Reviews for Greater Journey : Americans in Paris


Booklist Reviews 2011 May #1
*Starred Review* Paris in the 1920s is one of those romantic place-and-time moments every writer wishes to have been part of. But popular historian McCullough, much-respected author of Truman (1992) and John Adams (2001), chose not to retell the story of the so-called Lost Generation. Instead, he relates a less-familiar but no-less-engaging tale: that of the many Americans, most of them in the arts, who were soul-drawn to Paris between 1830 and 1900. He reminds us that in the century of great American expansion, "not all pioneers went west." McCullough's research is staggering to perceive, and the interpretation he lends to his material is impressive to behold as he chronicles a long but never thinly analyzed list of expatriates who settled in Paris for varying lengths of time to take advantage of the heady environment--the city as muse--to elevate their talents in their particular fields, whether it be painting (Mary Cassatt and John Singer Sargent), sculpture (Augustus Saint-Gaudens), writing (Henry James and James Fenimore Cooper), or learning medicine (Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female doctor in America, and Oliver Wendell Holmes). HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: McCullough's track record says it all: expect his latest book to ascend the best-seller lists and be given a place on the year-end best lists. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2011 April #1

An ambitious, wide-ranging study of how being in Paris helped spark generations of American genius.

Not content to focus on a few of the 19th-century American artists, doctors and statesmen who benefited enormously from their Parisian education, award-winning historian McCullough (1776, 2005, etc.) embraces a cluster of aspiring young people such as portraitist George Healy and lawyer Charles Sumner, eager to expand their horizons in the 1830s by enduring the long sea passage, then spirals out to include numerous other visitors over an entire eventful century. In the early period of trans-Atlantic travel, American tourists were truly risking their lives over the weeks of rough sailing, but novelist James Fenimore Cooper, widowed schoolteacher Emma Hart Willard and young medical student Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. all knew their education was not complete without a stint in the medieval capital. For many of these American rubes, exposure to the fine arts, old-world architecture, fashion, fine dining, museums and teaching hospitals proved transformative, and the knowledge they gained would define their professional lives back in America. The year in Paris artist Samuel Morse painted his extraordinary The Gallery of the Louvre would provide the climax of one career and segue into another—as inventor of the electric telegraph. The revolutionary upheaval of 1848, the advent of the Second Empire and the massive redesign wrought by "demolition artist" Georges-Eugène Haussmann changed Paris profoundly, some said for the better, while the Americans continued to arrive: sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Congressman Elihu B. Washburne and painter Mary Cassatt, among many others. For some, like John Singer Sargent, who had been brought up traversing European capitals, their time spent in Paris would reveal what made them quintessentially American.

A gorgeously rich, sparkling patchwork, eliciting stories from diaries and memoirs to create the human drama McCullough depicts so well.

Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Library Journal BookSmack
Using a cache of letters, journals, and memoirs McCullough explores the impact of Paris on American thought and creativity during the 19th century. Tracing the city's influence on dozens of characters, McCullough offers readers his special blend of accessible, story-based social history. His lists of subjects reads like the top class of a 19th-century who's who: Augustus Saint-Gaudens (the New York sculptor), Mary Cassatt, Oliver Wendell Holmes (father of the Supreme Court Justice), James Fenimore Cooper, Samuel F.B. Morse, Charles Sumner (who went on to be the key voice in the Senate against slavery), and Harriet Beecher Stowe all make appearances. As McCullough's wonderful book makes clear, these luminaries did not just sharpen and deepen their particular expertise in Paris, they witnessed and absorbed a way of life and outlook that was both totally foreign and extremely influential. Presenting an intersecting grid of tales, McCullough dips out of one story only to dip into another as he explores the individual biographies that collectively make his point. The result is narrative nonfiction at its best, a work that seduces the reader with a fascinating blend of strongly defined characters, illuminating and intriguing detail, and an engrossing pace. - Neal Wyatt, "RA Crossroads", Booksmack! 7/7/11 Read-alikes: (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Library Journal Express Reviews
This is a highly readable and entertaining travelog of a special sort, an interdisciplinary treat from a tremendously popular Pulitzer Prize-winning historian. McCullough (John Adams) tells of the many American writers, artists, political figures, etc., who traveled to Paris during the period from 1830 to 1900. Travel was a "wild novelty" to them as they sought to bask in the inspiration of Paris's culture and heritage. McCullough has unearthed the reminiscences and reflections of an amazing array of prominent Americans, including Margaret Fuller, Mary Cassatt, Henry Adams, Edith Wharton, Mark Twain, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Charles Sumner, with results valuable both as a record of personal experiences and, more importantly, for the revelations about the intersection of French and American history in these years, encompassing the French sympathy for the Confederacy, as well as how American ingenuity (the light bulb, telegraph, telephone, even the soda fountain) captivated the French. While McCullough has relied on the letters and journals of many superb writers and cultural figures, his most valuable find for students of political history is the detailed diary kept by diplomat Elihu Washburne during the tumultuous days of the Paris Commune. Verdict Highly recommended and sure to captivate general readers and generalist scholars alike.-Marie Marmo Mullaney, Caldwell Coll., NJ (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 March #4

One of America's most popular historians and a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, McCullough (1776) has hit the historical jackpot. Travelers before the telephone era loved to write letters and journals, and McCullough has turned this avalanche of material into an entertaining chronicle of several dozen 19th-century Americans who went to Paris, an immense, supremely civilized city flowing with ideas, the arts, and elegance, where no one spit tobacco juice or defaced public property. They discovered beautiful clothing, delicious food, the art of dining ("The French dine to gratify, we to appease appetite," wrote John Sanderson). Paris had not only pleasures but professional attractions as well. Artists such as Samuel F.B. Morse, Whistler, Sargent, and Cassatt came to train. At a time when American medical education was fairly primitive, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. and other prospective physicians studied at the Sorbonne's vast hospitals and lecture halls--with tuition free to foreigners. Authors from Cooper to Stowe, Twain, and James sometimes took up residence. McCullough mixes famous and obscure names and delivers capsule biographies of everyone to produce a colorful parade of educated, Victorian-era American travelers and their life-changing experiences in Paris. (May)

[Page ]. Copyright 2010 PWxyz LLC

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