After the Franco-German War of 1871–1872, Paris experienced a remarkable artistic, literary, and scientific surge in the midst of immense political and religious turbulence, reshaping worldviews to embrace rapid change and immortalizing the period's innovators. McAuliffe (Dawn of the Belle Epoque) revisits this vibrant, controversial era and weaves brief chronological snapshots of the eponymous figures—plus others like Sarah Bernhardt and Émile Zola—and their (often long-suffering) companions throughout her narrative. Visual artists receive the most biographical attention, illuminating the rise and fall of Matisse's Fauvism and Picasso's transformation into cubism, while the Curies' heartbreaking story of love for science and each other balances out the art colonies' fatalistic frivolity. McAuliffe tries to include too much into an eminently readable but overstuffed narrative; for instance, technological advances and the formative experience of Charles de Gaulle barely make an impression after impassioned descriptions of the robust exploits of Stein, Picasso, and Zola. For Paris, the Belle Epoque and its dazzling cultural movement resulted in a shining period whose inverse would soon be felt in the desolation and decimation of the Great War. Illus. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 12/23/2013 Release date: 03/01/2014 Genre: Nonfiction
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