What pleasure it is to be able to sit down and write a review of a truly enjoyable book such as this one. As I sit here typing I am listening to some music from one of the greatest composers of the 19th Century, Frederic Chopin. Fitting no less, as this book provides the reader with a guide through the City of Paris as seen and experienced by Chopin during his time there.
The author, William Atwood, has written two previous books on Chopin and in this third book he shows that he has a deep understanding for Chopin and his time. Covering the period from 1831 to 1849 Atwood covers all manner of subjects in his discussion of Paris, that beautiful city that seemed to produce some of the greatest artists in Europe. The author provides you with an insight into the social and artistic scene as well as some of the more interesting people, places and activities of Paris.
The book covers not only music and musicians but poets, writers, painters, the opera and theatre, medicine, bohemians, people of the street and how they all lived and survived during this turbulent period. The story just flows along smoothly and some of the stories are just amazing.
For instance when Paris decided to solve the sewage problem that tended to blot the city streets they changed the roadways contours from concave to convex allowing the swill and sewage to run off the roads into the new drainage system. The only problem with this was that not all the drains were properly covered and children often fell through the drains into the underground sewer system!
Another interesting little story in the chapter on medicine informs the reader that during the craze for bleeding as a form of combating illness that swept Paris during the early 1830's it was estimated that by 1833 Paris was importing 41.5 million leeches a year!
One of my favourite stories was the tragic tale of Alphonsine Plessis, the lady of the camellias, which can be found in the chapter regarding bohemians and demimondes (I don't want to spoil the story for anyone so you will have to buy the book and read it for yourself). According the Atwood the people of Paris still leave offerings of flowers on her tomb at the cemetery at Montmarte.
For anyone who loves good history, the arts or just a well-written book I am sure they will enjoy this story. In the pages you will find some of the greatest names in the world of the arts, Frederic Chopin, Eugene Delacroix, George Sand, Honore de Balzac, Hector Berlioz, Alexandre Dumas, Victor Hugo, Franz Liszt, and many many more. The book also provides numerous black and white illustrations showing Paris, its people and its buildings, during this time. This is a great story, an enjoyable read and an interesting piece of history.