It's easy to reduce France to the sum of its parts: weekend breaks amid the culture of Paris or summer holidays basking in the sunshine of the south; accounts of the Revolution - Madame Defarge knitting beside the guillotine - and Napoleon's battle at Waterloo (mis)remembered from school history lessons; a country famous for its intellectuals, its philosophers and writers, its fashion, food and wine. Despite this, however, the notion of 'the French' as one nation is relatively recent and - historically speaking - quite misleading; in order to discover the 'real' past of France, it's not only necessary to go back in time, but also to go at a slower pace than modern life generally allows: this book is the result of 14,000 miles covered by bicycle (and four years spent in the library). It is at last a book which tells the whole story. 'Funny, enterprisingly researched, and undertaken with few apparent preconceptions ...This is an excellent, amusing, decent book, which covers an enormous amount of ground in a little space' - Philp Hensher, "Spectator".
'A fascinating study of a complex subject, written with humanity, sceptical intelligence and an impressive command of the sources' - "Daily Telegraph". 'A fascinating mix of personal testimony and judiciously filleted history' - "The Times".
Winner of Ondaatje Prize 2008.
Graham Robb was born in Manchester in 1958. He has published widely in nineteenth-century French literature: his highly acclaimed adaptation of Claude Pichois and Jean Ziegler's biography of Baudelaire appeared in 1989, his biography of Balzac in 1994, his Victor Hugo - winner of the Royal Society of Literature Heinemann Award and the Whitbread Biography Award - in 1997, and his critically applauded biography of Rimbaud in 2000. He lives in Oxford.