Thursday, August 15, 2013

Books: Paris

This is not a travel book even though the title might have misled you. This is a novel written by Edward Rutherfurd. I have read novels from James Michener before. So when I heard Edward Rutherfurd is a Michener disciple, I was interested. James Michener is known for choosing a place and writing a story which spans centuries and generations. In this book, Edward Rutherfurd uses the same principles as Michener to tell the rich history of the city of lights. Edward Rutherfurd tells the story of Paris from 13th century to the second half of 20th century, a decade after the WWII. How does Rutherfurd accomplishes this difficult task in such a way he has the reader hooked to the beginning to the end? He accomplishes this by two techniques. The first one is to weave the story around 4-5 families whose lives are intertwined through the evolving time and the turbulence associated with these times. The second technique is to tell the story in a non-linear fashion.

By setting the story against 4-5 families, Edward Rutherfurd explores all the possible complexities which occur in human relationships. The complexities revolve around the French theme of liberté, égalité et fraternité. Using this theme, the author explores not only class inequality, bigotry and prejudices through the ages but also the struggle of the various members of the families to overcome these obstacles. The chasm which has deepened the ages is finally forgotten and a brotherhood formed between various families against the occupying forces during the concluding chapters set in the 20th century. If this is not melodrama at the best, then what is? The second technique to jump between ages which means you might be reading what is happening in the 19th century and the author abruptly switches to 13th century when the next chapter begins. This is very effective to build suspense and capture attention. Even though the reader is confused, he is still eagerly looking forward to the next chapter. He desperately wants the the author to connect the dots. This also forces the reader to be very attentive while reading.

A few months back, I read Graham Robb's Parisians. You may find similarities between these two books. If you love Paris, these two books should be in your reading list. Both these books explore Paris through centuries. In Graham Robb's Parisians, the author tries to tell the story of Paris by putting himself into the shoes of many historic figures. In this book, Edward Rutherford spins a story where records the actual history of the city with fictional characters interacting with the historical figures. The streets which are existing today in Paris comes alive in both the books. If you have walked through Paris, then you inadvertently becomes a part of this novel.

This is recommended if you like to read an epic. This is recommended if you love Paris.

Tags: Books,Edward Rutherfurd,Paris



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