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  • Citizens

  • Chronicle of the French Revolution
  • By: Simon Schama
  • Narrated by: Sara Powell
  • Length: 38 hrs and 11 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, Europe
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (75 ratings)

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Summary

In this New York Times best seller, award-winning author Simon Schama presents an ebullient country, vital and inventive, infatuated with novelty and technology - a strikingly fresh view of Louis XVI's France. 

One of the great landmarks of modern history publishing, Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution is the most authoritative social, cultural and narrative history of the French Revolution ever produced.

©2019 Simon Schama (P)2021 Audible, Ltd

What listeners say about Citizens

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Biography based approach to the revolution

Schama takes the approach of examining the revolution via the biographies of the personalities involved. While this does give the book a slightly different “selling point”, and may give viewpoints useful to those looking for academic insights…it also makes the book less interesting to a general audience.

As it is, the whole isn’t bad, but suffers in comparison to Mike Duncans treatment of the revolution in his free podcast “Revolutions”. If you’re looking for an entertaining listen I’d recommend you start there rather than here.

7 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • A
  • 14-03-22

An oddly disjointed account

Schama is one of my favourite historians, but I found this book really hard work, and not for the right reasons. Schama states that he wanted to write a story of the Revolution rather than a history; to create a narrative about that historical period rather than break it down into its component parts. I don't think he succeeded terribly well - or, at the very least, the narrative he weaves is not suited to those who don't already have a fairly solid background in the main characters and events in questions, People, places, and events are presented in a series of vignettes without being properly presented or explained . The result is not unlike listening to your grandma tell you a convoluted story about some relatives you've never heard about, or whose names you vaguely remember but can't place. Even if you desperately want to follow the story, it's hard to do so when you lack a context. I guess this may work better in print, as one would be able to look things up. In an audiobook, it's frustrating beyond belief.

Further frustration is added by the fact that many French terms and quotes are not translated. While this might add colour, it detracts clarity. Again, it might have been less annoying in print, although I am not too sure about that. To me, it just seems like a gimmick that gets really old really fast.

The last source of frustration is the narrator. While she has an engaging and animated voice, she also has a mild lisp, It doethn't make her narration hard to underthtand, but I found it quite dithtracting. She also mispronounces the odd word.

All in all, if you already know about the French Revolution and its historical background, or if you're happy to listen to anecdotes without knowing their context, you will probably enjoy this. Otherwise, I'd steer clear.

3 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Fabulous but horrific

The author and narrator might , perhaps, be surprised to be reminded of their work so long after the event.
Wonderful research, painfully evocative descriptions, I found The Terror sickening and upsetting, analogies with the 20th century were justifiably drawn. Man's inhumanity to man keeps on repeating itself, The Holocaust too will probably be repeated and justified by the same Diabolical influences. Thank you, Simon Schama.
A word for Sara Powell, thank you, a long read and as an 'ancien prof de francais' I admired your French.

2 people found this helpful

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An history of the French Revolution

A fascinating window on the events surrounding the French Revolution. This is a highly detailed account and a must for the history buff.

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obnoxious style of telling history

no one needs to know what colour the rose someone held in a play before the french revolution was. not for me

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    3 out of 5 stars

Half decent offering from Schama

Way too long, covers a lot of unnecessary background, no where near Schama's best offering. If only he could keep to the facts. Okay, I like a bit of flowering it up , but this was ridiculous. I kept wishing he would cut to the chase. The narrator's voice grated with me too, despite seeming alright in the sample. Avoid. A whole bunch of better books out there covering the French revolution and its associated history.