Rising from the ashes of the Franco-Prussian War and the Commune, the tumultuous Third Republic’s early years from 1870 to 1900, known as the belle epoque, was an era in which groundbreaking artists flourished: Manet, Eiffel, Rodin, Debussy, and other one-name legends. McAuliffe (Paris Discovered: Explorations in the City of Light) chronicles the story of Paris’s rebirth, capturing the artistic freedom of impressionism in painting and music, and new ideas in sculpture and on the stage even as Republican secularists, lingering Communards, and the royalist Catholic hierarchy fought for political and popular control, a struggle wonderfully illustrated through the construction in this era of the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, and the Basilique du Sacré Coeur. The fascinating glimpses into the lives of each significant figure are necessarily truncated, including Sarah Bernhardt’s, whose self-marketing could well have served as a blueprint for Lady Gaga. The author doesn’t overlook the Dreyfus affair and economic hard times, but the relationships and creative output of the era’s innovators create a marvelous vision of Paris at its heady, uncertain best. Illus. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/28/2011 Release date: 06/01/2011 Genre: Nonfiction
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