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Murder by Death

I read cozy and historical mysteries, a bit of Paranormal/UF, and to mix it up, I read science and gardening books on occasion.

Dawn of the Belle Epoque

Dawn of the Belle Epoque: The Paris of Monet, Zola, Bernhardt, Eiffel, Debussy, Clemenceau, and Their Friends - Mary McAuliffe

I can't stress enough how ignorant I was about this time in history.  Certainly, I knew the names (except Morisot's) and I knew Impressionism, but otherwise: zip.

 

So as someone who had virtually no knowledge of the subject material going in, I found this book to be easy to read and well-written in a narrative style that had me putting aside my current fiction because I wanted to find out what happened next?.

 

Covering a year or two per chapter, Ms. McAuliffe follows the lives of the artists and politicians of Paris immediately following the Commune up to 1900 (30 years or so).  Each chapter is further broken down to sections focussing on one of the characters of this time, making this an exceptionally easy book to read.

 

Mostly, I thought the read was excellent; I occasionally got a little bit lost when she jumped forward or backward in time to foreshadow or set the backstory, but this was rare.  I learned a lot - heaps! - from this book.  I've always loved the Impressionist's art and of course academically, I knew they all painted during the same time period, but I never knew just how interconnected they all were and how interconnected they were to the writers, actors, and politicians too.  But most startling was learning about the Dreyfus Affair; not the anti-semitism: while that sickened me, it sadly didn't shock me.  But the lengths those involved went to in order to protect themselves and their complete willingness to throw away another life for their own preservation in such a flatly premeditated way was confronting.  People suck; I mean, they really suck.  Fortunately Zola was a (surprising) bright light and I admired his dedication to seeing it through.

 

Also, massive kudos go to Eugene Manet for being the only man in the entire book who kept it in his pants.

 

Without hesitation, I'd recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about history but wants to avoid the academic analysis and statistics that often go with it.  This one reads like a great novel.

 

 

[PopSugar 2015 Challenge: A non-fiction book]