I can still feel, as if it were yesterday, the excitement of my first Channel crossing (as a child of nearly 7) in September 1936; the regiment of porters, smelling asphyxiatingly of garlic in their blue-green blousons; the raucous sound all around me of spoken French; the immense fields of Normandy strangely devoid of hedges; then the Gare du Nord at twilight, the policemen with their képis and their little snow-white batons; and my first sight of the Eiffel Tower...This book is written in the belief that the average English-speaking man or woman has remarkably little knowledge of French history. We may know a bit about Napoleon or Joan of Arc or Louis XIV, but for most of us that's about it. In my own three schools we were taught only about the battles we won: Crécy and Poitiers, Agincourt and Waterloo. The rest was silence. So here is my attempt to fill in the blanks...
John Julius Norwich (at 88) has finally written the book he always wanted to write, the extremely colourful story of the country he loves best.
From frowning Roman generals and belligerent Gallic chieftains, to Charlemagne (hated by generations of French children taught that he invented schools) through Marie Antoinette and the storming of the Bastille to Vichy, the Resistance and beyond, FRANCE is packed with heroes and villains, adventures and battles, romance and revolution. Full of memorable stories and racy anecdotes, this is the perfect introduction to the country that has inspired the rest of the world to live, dress, eat -- and love better.
Always a warm, welcoming guide, John Julius Norwich takes us on a historical tour of France from its earliest days to the twenty-first century . . . A highly entertaining introduction to a fascinating nation (History Revealed Magazine)
Norwich romps through French history with lots of good stories: philandering kings, dread plagues and legendary dinners (The Times)
For his final book, the late Norwich tackled the dauntingly vast subject of two millennia of French history with admirable lightness and urbanity. There is the odd whiff, probably deliberate, of 1066 and All That - "The Capetians had steadily built up France, transforming it from a Carolingian custard into a nation" - and his comic footnotes deserve a review of their own (The Daily Telegraph, Summer Reads)
A richly illuminating work . . . Norwich was a wonderful military historian (Times Literary Supplement)
Almost the best thing in it is the author's short epilogue, 'The Essence of France', in which he listed what he loved most about that enchanting, if occasionally exasperating, country - its architecture, its painting and its music. These were among Norwich's greatest passions, which he invariably conveyed with authority, charm and wit (Desmond Seward History Today)
A story told with charm and obvious enthusiasm for the subject ... My children constantly ask why the GCSE syllabus cannot be an introduction to British history rather than a somewhat esoteric dive into Weimar, Nazi Germany and Russia. What they want is a comprehensive, approachable and enjoyable survey of the story of our islands - and that is exactly what John Julius Norwich has written about France . . . The attraction of this commendable short history is that it's as entertaining as it is informative, written with fluency, wit and a nicely understated humour: a real pleasure-almost compelling-to read (Country Life)
Norwich treats history like a friendly fireside chat (Sunday Independent)
The tone of France is avuncular, worldly and witty; it is like having dinner with an urbane, well-read uncle. (Country & Town House)
There is certainly a need for a concise history of France in English and, in many ways, John Julius Norwich is the ideal man to write it . . . Norwich has a love for France that stretches back to his childhood and it is evident throughout this readable, entertaining book. (Sunday Times)
This warm, delightful short history of France, aimed convivially at the general reader, is his love letter to the country he knew so well (The Spectator)