I have found that my reading tastes have changed quite a bit over the past few years and that I have come to really enjoy a good non-fiction book. I’m fascinated by history (my high school teachers would have told you that this was to be an unlikely scenario) and history of subjects dear to me (literature and the arts) are of supreme interest. When Paris Sizzled is a look at Paris, France in the 1920’s when the arts were vibrant and personalities such as Ernest Hemingway and Josephine Baker and Cole Porter (and many others) were regulars on the scene.
I absolutely love the jazz-age era and this group of artists and literary figures couldn’t be more appealing to me so I expected to be thoroughly infatuated with this book. But I wasn’t.
The book is extremely well researched and this isn’t just a history of Paris in the 1920’s but it’s also a chronicle and biography of some of the more interesting personalities of the era – the people who made Paris of 1920 a hip place to be.
But considering how vibrant and exciting these lives were (or at least our expectations of these lives), this book does not capture the vibrancy and excitement of the jazz era or these people. The book reads a bit too dry, matter-of-factly recording events rather than letting the reader experience them.
Given the fiction-like nature many non-fiction books take now (I’m think of Bill O’Reilly’s “Killing” biographies and a few other non-fiction books I’ve read recently), readers are getting spoiled and we expect more than a dry dissertation. Mary McAuliffe does a decent job (again – the research itself is tremendous) but just doesn’t give it that extra bit that really lets us enjoy it
I expect I’ll refer to this when researching the era (which I expect to do in the not-too-distant-future), but I can’t recommend this as one of the better non-fiction titles I’ve read recently.
Looking for a good book? When Paris Sizzled: The 1920s Paris of Hemingway, Chanel, Cocteau, Cole Porter, Josephine Baker, and Their Friends, by Mary McAuliffe, is a wonderfully researched book but doesn’t capture the excitement of the era the way one would hope.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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When Paris Sizzled: The 1920s Paris of Hemingway, Chanel, Cocteau, Cole Porter, Josephine Baker, and Their Friends
author: Mary McAuliffe
publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
hardcover, 344 pages