Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

The Discovery of France by Graham Robb

The Discovery of France (2007)

by Graham Robb

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
965248,958 (3.98)92

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 92 mentions

English (20)  Dutch (4)  All (24)
Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
I was intrigued enough to suggest this book for my local book group. The subtitle, "A Historical Geography", well-defines what the author was shooting for. This is an immersive, thorough study of the ways, traditions, attitudes of people in a not-so-ancient time. What pops out immediately is how secluded and self-reliant were most people's lives, so much so that hundreds of local dialects and languages emerged, not to mention customs and beliefs. Far too much ground is covered in this book to attempt a summary, but a couple of facets I liked were: First, this is a rurally focused history, so that Paris, the world wars, wine-growing, etc. are avoided. Second, the author is a literature scholar, and liberally quotes from travel memoirs and novels, of greats such as Hugo, R.L. Stevenson, Flaubert, as well as lesser knowns whose surviving documents are jewels of first-hand reportage. This is a dense read given the wealth of information, but if you're willing to take the time, I found it to be worth it. My only criticism relates directly to the mass of information. I wish Robb had chosen fewer broad topics and gone deeper into particular cultural trends. But again, his purpose was broad from the start, so I respect that. ( )
  ThoughtPolice | Oct 23, 2017 |
not in CLAN
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 5, 2016 |
I originally picked this book up at school while I was teaching French--the idea being that Graham Robb was coming to BYU and giving a lecture, therefore reading some of the book beforehand would be a good move. I neither read much of the book nor attended the lecture, but I did enjoy finishing it a year plus later.

Robb does have an engaging narrative style, but his prose tends to wander rather more than I would prefer, especially since his epilogue really doesn't do too much in the way of tying together the myriad of threads he introduces over the course of the book.

For those interested in learning more about France and less about the perception of France over the centuries, pick another book. If you'd enjoy a meandering, meta-anthropological treatment of France that feels almost as aimless as a Sunday afternoon stroll through a park, pick it up. ( )
  rwilliab | Nov 21, 2014 |
Picked up a copy of this at Powell's for a nice discount. Flipping through it, this seems to be exactly the sort of non-fiction I really enjoy: that is, work that is driven by a strong narrative.
  tlockney | Sep 7, 2014 |
Francophile that I am, I will never see France quite the same way after having read Robb's fascinating historical geography (or geographical history)of France up to WWI. Almost every page, in fact, almost every paragraph proves chock-full of interesting "facts" and authorial observations. There are chapters on languages (French having been a minority, i.e., "foreign" language a mere hundred years ago); animals (the "60 million Others" who also inhabited the Hexagon); maps, roads, travel in all its dimensions, "colonization" of the nation, tourism and more. I am already rereading this book with a map of France spread out on the dining room table in front of me as I do so (bearing in mind that to "find" all the locales Robb references really requires a palimpsest of old and new, large and small scale, linguistic, ethnographic & topographic maps, some of which may not even exist.
A few anecdotal gems:
"But if all the nicknames had been adopted, the map of France would now be covered with obscenities and incomprehensible jokes." (36)
"Human hibernation was a physical and economic necessity. Lowering the metabolic rate prevented hunger from exhausting supplies . . . Slowness was not an attempt to savour the moment." (76)
"The Virgin Mary was always more important than God . . . . He was no more important than a bishop." (130)
"The century's greatest expert on gossip and pre-industrial telecommunications, Honore de Balzac, suggested that rumour could travel at about 9 mph." (141)
"Any commemoration of European unity should remember the smugglers and pedlars who helped to keep the borders open." (152)
"Three years later the dogs of Paris had their own ambulance." (179)
"The shepherds of the Landes spent whole days on stilts, using a stick to form a tripod when they wanted to rest. Perched ten feet in the air, they knitted woollen garments and scanned the horizon for stray sheep. People who saw them in the distance compared them to tiny steeples and giant spiders." (243)
"France was repeatedly reconquered by French forces." (256)
"it is quite possible to travel from one end of the country to the other without . . . realizing that many of the landscapes that seem typically and eternally French are younger than the Eiffel Tower." (268)
( )
1 vote Paulagraph | May 25, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
For Margaret
First words
Ten years ago, I began to explore the country on which I was supposed to be an authority.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language
Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393059731, Hardcover)

A narrative of exploration—full of strange landscapes and even stranger inhabitants—that explains the enduring fascination of France.

While Gustave Eiffel was changing the skyline of Paris, large parts of France were still terra incognita. Even in the age of railways and newspapers, France was a land of ancient tribal divisions, prehistoric communication networks, and pre-Christian beliefs. French itself was a minority language.

Graham Robb describes that unknown world in arresting narrative detail. He recounts the epic journeys of mapmakers, scientists, soldiers, administrators, and intrepid tourists, of itinerant workers, pilgrims, and herdsmen with their millions of migratory domestic animals. We learn how France was explored, charted, and colonized, and how the imperial influence of Paris was gradually extended throughout a kingdom of isolated towns and villages.

The Discovery of France explains how the modern nation came to be and how poorly understood that nation still is today. Above all, it shows how much of France—past and present—remains to be discovered. 8 pages of color and 8 pages of black-and-white illustrations

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:14 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"From maps, migration and magic, to linguistic differences and tribal disputes, The Discovery of France tells the whole story of this remarkable - and surprising - country."--BOOK JACKET.

Quick Links

Popular covers


Average: (3.98)
1 2
2 2
2.5 2
3 25
3.5 15
4 58
4.5 12
5 36

W.W. Norton

2 editions of this book were published by W.W. Norton.

Editions: 0393059731, 0393333647

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 125,512,289 books! | Top bar: Always visible