France On the Brink

August 8, 2014 History, non-fiction 7

France on the BrinkTitle: France on the Brink
Author: Jonathan Fenby
Source: from publisher for France Book Tours
Rating: ★★★★☆
Review Summary: The author did a fantastic job showing how history has shaped the French and encapsulating the difficulties their country faces with fascinating anecdotes and just enough optimism.

France is currently facing many challenges, including high unemployment rates and disillusionment with their government in the face of scandals. Even more worryingly, many are turning to violence and bigotry as a way to combat their fear. France is still strong in many areas though, including tourism, with it’s varied local culture and cuisine.

I was concerned a book about politics and the economy would be boring, but decided to take a chance because I love nonfiction and books about France. The first chapter almost made me give up on the book, with a disorganized overview of the contents of the book and a laundry-list of the things which make France great. I stuck it out though and if you’re someone interested in learning about modern France, I’d highly recommend you do the same. The author has collected many great stories of both historical events and his own experiences in France. He did a great job bringing France to life and made me very hungry reading about French cuisine.

I was initially dubious about the book’s organization by subject rather than chronology. Especially as someone not familiar with the history of France’s politics, it took me a little while to grasp the order of the events being discussed. By the middle of the book though, the references to the same events as they related to different subjects actually made it easier to learn from the book. The organization by subject also meant I could benefit more from the author’s grasp of the big picture of French politics and history. Had I simply read about the events in chronological order, I might never have gotten many of the author’s insights. Overall, I enjoyed this a lot and was surprised when the initially dry-appearing book made me laugh out loud at several of the author’s stories.


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7 Responses to “France On the Brink”

  1. Emma @ Words And Peace

    Thanks for your thoughtful review. Personally, I actually enjoyed how the book was structured. Maybe you saw my chapter by chapter review of the book, it highlighted how one chapter leads to the next. Maybe it’s a more European way of organizing ideas?

    • DoingDewey

      I haven’t noticed if European authors are more likely to structure their books this way or not, but that’s an interesting idea. I ended up liking the structure too. I wasn’t sure about it at first because I often find non-chronological nonfiction more disorganized, but I thought it was used well here and ended up learning more with this organization than I would have otherwise, I think.

  2. Lianne @

    Great review! I haven’t read too much about France’s current economic and political situation but this book sounds really interesting and comprehensive in that respect, I’ll keep a lookout for it 🙂

    • DoingDewey

      I was really pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable this was, but it very thorough. I’d recommend it if it’s a topic that particularly interests you, but maybe not as a way to dable 🙂

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