Witty, learned and informative at lightning speed (the author does the Commune in about 16 pages), Rupert Christiansen’s City of Light: The Making of Modern Paris offers the fascinating story of a metamorphosis ... Christiansen enhances his lively account of this transformative era with a bibliography for further reading, as well as wonderful photographs and period illustrations throughout ... this little book will make you want to walk the expansive elegance of Paris, as well as its back streets, from one end to the other, seeking out French history in the sites it brings so vividly to life.
If you are heading for Paris this summer be sure to put City of Light in your bag. Besides being a cracking read, it will open your eyes to the reality of what you see around you. It’s common knowledge that the reason Louis Napoleon tore down old Paris, and replaced its narrow alleys with broad boulevards, was to stop the mutinous plebs building barricades. But, like much common knowledge, that turns out to be less than half the truth. Rupert Christiansen’s account of the destruction and rebuilding is masterly — vivid, dramatic, admirably compact and ultimately tragic.
... concise and compelling ... Christiansen rightly describes Haussmann’s approach as ruthless, but does not quite do justice to Haussmann’s own term for his method—éventrement, or evisceration ... With just 170 pages of text, Christiansen could not do full justice to [how important Paris's expansion of sewers was to the city] ... Yet another victim of the book’s apparently forced brevity is its account of the Commune.