Paris Reborn

Beginning in the 1850s, Napoleon III tasked George-Eugene Haussmann, newly appointed prefect of Seine, with the rebuilding of Paris. As Stephane Kirkland said in his book Paris Reborn, Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte “had a great ambition for Paris. He wanted to transform it into the most modern and functional city of the world, a city where wide, convenient boulevards suitable for modern transportation would replace narrow streets, where elegant ladies could walk without treading in filth and decay, where new neighborhoods would rise to house the swelling population; he wanted a city that would represent the principles of order and modernity of his presidency …”

View of Place de la Concorde and the Champs Elysees in 19th century Paris with Arc de Triumph in the distance

Kirkland goes on: “It was a heavy-handed enterprise, which achieved its ends at tremendous human and cultural cost and wiped from the map an old, much-loved Paris … the Second Empire rebuilding of Paris was responsible for creating one of the world’s great cities.”

If you’ve been to Paris, you will have had the pleasure of walking those wide boulevards conceived by Napoleon III and admiring the Haussmann-style architecture of five- and six-storey buildings that dominate the city.

Historical accounts say that Napoleon III “installed a huge map of Paris in his office, marked with coloured lines where he wanted new boulevards to be.”

Like any large public venture, the rebuilding of Paris created winners and losers. Those with insider knowledge made fortunes. Many of those whose homes or businesses stood in the way of one of Napoleon III’s boulevards lost everything. Another consequence of this new Paris was to replace the heterogeneity of the old neighbourhoods, with new arrondissements that put “the rich with the rich and the poor with the poor.” Ile de la Cite is a good illustration. “In fewer than ten years, a veritable hive of human activity, with a complex organic structure of houses and little streets, was cleared away and replaced by large open spaces and boxlike institutional buildings.” The population of the island in the middle of the Seine fell from 15,000 to 5,000.

Along with the boulevards and new apartment buildings designed to house Paris’ growing population, Napoleon III created splendid new parks and gardens and new churches to mollify the working class. New department stores, new sewage and water systems were also built. The avenues were planted with chestnut trees.

Parc Monceau – intended for wealthy Parisians

The families of my two protagonists in Paris In Ruins, Camille and Mariele, are from the wealthy class that benefited from the rebuilding of Paris. Indeed, Camille’s father made some of his money by leveraging insider knowledge. But the seeds of unrest were sown. Seeds that would ultimately lead to the Paris Commune.

DON’T MISS OTHER POSTS ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION.  FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, PARIS IN RUINS, is available for pre-order on Amazon US, Amazon Canada, Kobo, and Barnes&Noble. An earlier novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

A Year of Reading 2016

40 books in 2016 – several for research purposes, a number for reviews or articles, and a good number for pleasure – have to have some of those! Some were superb, others I did not finish.

four-novels-read-in-2016

I suspect I’m a ‘hard marker’. Here’s the rating system I used in 2014 and 2015: LR = light, enjoyable read; GR = good, several caveats; ER = excellent, few caveats; OR = outstanding; DNF = did not finish; NF=Non-Fiction; NMT = not my type.

The following are from January 2016 to May. I’ve included links to blog posts and reviews where appropriate. I’ll share the balance in a few days.

Jan Girl on the Train Paula Hawkins DNF Wanted to see what all the fuss was about; after 15% I no longer cared
The House I Loved Tatiana de Rosnay GR Not nearly as captivating as Sarah’s Key
Paris Reborn Stephane Kirkland ER Narrative non-fiction about the rebuilding of Paris; superbly written
Feb At the Existentialist Café Sara Blakewell GR The lives and ideas of famous philosophers like Sartre, de Beauvoir, Camus, Heidegger
Pillars of Light Jane Johnson GR The siege of Akka in the time of Richard Lionheart
The Lost Sisterhood Anne Fortier GR A young scholar risks her reputation to prove that the legendary women known as the Amazons existed
Call to Juno Elisabeth Storrs ER Last of her trilogy set during wars between Rome and the Etruscans
Diary of the Besieged Resident in Paris Henry Labouchere NF A journalist’s diary during the 1870 Prussian siege of Paris
Mar France Since 1870 Charles Sowerwine NF For research purposes
Courtesans Katie Hickman NF For research purposes
Accessories to Modernity Susan Hiner NF For research purposes
The Rosie Project Graeme Simsion LR Very funny; a man with Aspergers conducts a project to find a wife
The Lady of the Tower Elizabeth St. John ER Compelling story of Lucy St. John, wife of the Lieutenant of the Tower of London in 17th century
Apr Tobias Prue Batten NMT Set in the waning years of the Byzantium Empire
Runaway Peter May GR A crime novel set in 1965 and fifty years later
The Ladies Paradise Emile Zola DNF Read to get a feel for 19th century Paris
With Violets Elizabeth Robards GR Based on the premise that Berthe Morisot and Edouard Manet were lovers
May The Nightingale Kristin Hannah ER Two French sisters play their parts in WWII
Wulfsana E.S. Moxon DNF Set in AD433 Britain
The Sands of Kedar Diana Khalil DNF a strong-willed girl in the male-dominated society of pre-Islam Arabia
Oswald: Return of the King Edoardo Albert GR The second book in the author’s Northumbrian Thrones trilogy

Looking back it seems that I was heavily into research during the first few months of 2016 as well as being involved in reviews for the MM Bennetts historical fiction award.

A Year of Reading 2015 – Part 1 and Part 2

A Year of Reading 2014 – Part 1 and Part 2

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union on August 16, 2016. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

Bookclub selections for next season

Red-wineMonday night was planning night at the Toronto book club where I’ve been a member for at least fifteen years. We have a tried and true process of nominating books, then gathering with suitable refreshments to discuss, debate and then vote for our preferences. The list included 18 possibilities and with only 9 meetings we had to trim it in half.

After a little more than hour, we came up with the following list and treated ourselves to another glass of wine.

  • Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill by Sonia Purnell – a biography of Clementine Churchill
  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – a story of love and race centred around a young man and woman from Nigeria
  • Submission by Amy Waldman – an anonymous architect creates a winning design for the 9/11 memorial and the discovery that he is Muslim has all sorts of consequences
  • In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje – a love story set in 1920s Toronto by the acclaimed author of The English Patient
  • The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin – a book store owner finds renewed meaning in his life
  • Outline by Rachel Cusk – a woman writer goes to Athens in the height of summer to teach a writing course
  • Paris Reborn by Stephane Kirkland – the rebuilding of Paris during the time of Napoleon III and Baron Haussmann (my recommendation :-))
  • Stalin’s Daughter by Rosemary Sullivan – a biography of Svetlana Stalin’s tragic life
  • Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder and One Man’s Fight for Justice by Bill Browder – a gripping story of life and corruption at the highest levels of Russian government

It promises to be an eclectic and intriguing season of reading with several of historical interest!

What’s your book club reading?

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET will be published by Lake Union on August 16, 2016.

Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.