Journey of Martin Nadaud

Gillian Tindall, Author
Gillian Tindall, Author St. Martin's Press $23.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-312-26185-6
Reviewed on: 07/31/2000
Release date: 08/01/2000
Hardcover - 310 pages - 978-0-7011-6867-4
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Martin Nadaud (1815-1898) was a prominent and self-made figure of 19th-century French politics. Nadaud's life began and ended in the Creuse, a region in central France notable for its export of stone masons on annual migrations to construct the great public buildings of Paris. Nadaud entered history at age 14 on the first of his many treks to Paris. There, in addition to learning the mason's craft, he began to educate himself about the political interests of the working classes. In this way Nadaud began the journey of the book's title, which brought him to Parliament as its first working-class member; to a long exile in England when his liberal republicanism was displaced by the Second Empire of Louis Napoleon; and again to senior positions in the French government when Louis Napoleon fell in 1870. Tindall's account is especially strong in her evocation of the physical settings of Nadaud's life: the atmospherics of a Creusois village, the emergence of Paris as a modern city, and England during the Industrial Revolution. Nadaud, however, remains elusive as a personality. In part, this is because his memoirs and surviving letters tend to veil his experience as a private man. Historian Tindall (Celestine; Countries of the Mind) extracts all she can from the materials at her disposal, but the inner character of her subject stubbornly resists disclosure. We are left with a public figure compounded out of strenuous manual labor, impressive efforts at self-education and a dedication to the well-being of workers like himself. (Aug.)
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