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Summary

When we think of France we often evoke images of fine food and wine, the elegant boulevards of Paris, the chic beaches of St Tropez. Yet, as the largest country in Europe, it is a place of huge diversity. The idea of 'Frenchness' emerged from over 2,000 years of history and it is a riveting story from Roman conquest to the present day.

Cecil Jenkins tells the story of the formation of this nation through its people, great events and culture. Through this narrative he charts why the French began to see themselves as so different from the rest of Europe and why, today, they face the same problems of identity as many other nations.

©2011 Cecil Jenkins (P)2014 Audible Ltd

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Jonathan
  • Edinburgh, United Kingdom
  • 18-03-14

Mostly modern history

I was excited about the appearance on audible of a book on the history of France but potential listeners should be warned that this book has a very modern focus. Although it starts right from pre-history, the speed is very fast and the first world war is reached with less than half the book completed. By contrast there is a hugely detailed discussion of the regimes of recent French presidents. This will appeal to some, but was certainly not what I expected from the title. The narration was good, though not in the very top class.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Good race through French history, bad narration

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

Yes, if you want a reasonable overview of French history without too much detail or analysis.

Would you be willing to try another one of Tristan Bernays’s performances?

No. I found the narration irritating, especially in terms of the pronunciation of French words. Vowel sounds in particular were routinely butchered, and the narrator sounded like he was taking a deep breath and a run up before attempting a French word, often pausing momentarily after each one as though to savour his safe landing at the other end. It should have been possible to find someone who knew how to pronounce the language. Apart from this, he lacked the gravitas for the subject, IHMO. I didn't feel he knew anything about history.

Any additional comments?

The book gets more detailed as it goes on, and so is somehwat lopsided in its coverage. The pre-20th century century sections are dealt with fairly summarily (not a criticism, since the book is only 11 or so hours long anyway) whereas the postwar period is discussed in a lot more detail (up to Sarkozy). For example, the revolutions of 1830 and 1848 seemed to get about as much mention as the French car and aerospace industries.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Great potential but...

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

No. Narrator's pronunciation of French names poor.

What was most disappointing about Cecil Jenkins’s story?

See above

Who might you have cast as narrator instead of Tristan Bernays?

Anyone who can pronounce French words with a decent accent.

Could you see A Brief History of France being made into a movie or a TV series? Who would the stars be?

No.

Any additional comments?

Has potential and has a good balance of historical fact and the inevitable goriness through the ages. One additional massacre to mention is that of the French language by the narrator whose pronunciation of French names and places can be abysmal at times.

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  • Michael
  • 19-04-16

good narrative

The narrative is shifted heavily towards the description of post De Gaulle presidencies while ancient and mideval histories are breezed through at a speed. Nevertheless it is a review well written and well performed.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • GG
  • 26-09-17

Would not recommend

This book suffers the typical failings of histories. It speeds past the first two thousand years so fast you can barely pick up anything, then slows to painful sloth for the 20th century to the extent that it becomes mind numbing. There is way too much name dropping of kings and politicians that muddies your ability to comprehend the a actual events.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Christopher
  • 04-10-16

A fantastic read!

Absolutely fantastic crash course in French culture and history from Roman times through the present. Excellent and easy to follow narration of what could otherwise be a dense read, full of interesting and relevant content.

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  • juan_vilella
  • 04-06-18

very uk centred.

the book puts the british and the british empire as the only reference and foe.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • David Rivera
  • 04-01-18

Great overview of the history

Particularly enjoyed the entertaining reader. Great overview of history economy an culture of France. Will look for mor

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 26-09-18

Surprised and delighted

In listening to the brief extract introducing this book, I thought it might be shallow or un-rigorous. Nothing could be further from the truth. As an ‘Anglo-Saxon’-type, I was surprised and delighted by the author’s fair treatment of French history and culture. And by everything I learned. 100% recommend.