Elaine Sciolino came to Paris as a young foreign correspondent and was seduced by a river. In The Seine, she tells the story of that river from its source on a remote plateau of Burgundy to the wide estuary where its waters meet the sea, and the cities, tributaries, islands, ports, and bridges in between.
I learned so much from this book. Elaine Sciolino is a graceful, companionable writer, someone who speaks about France in the most enjoyably American way ... Sciolino...proceeds from colorful detail to revealing detail, gently informing even as she entertains ... Although I’ve written books about Paris or set there, I never researched the Seine and so never knew some of the many things Sciolino tells us ... Sciolino is a true journalist, more interested in her subject than herself. She isn’t snobbish and is as likely to cite Doris Day as Francis Poulenc, to learn from an old sailor as from a historian ... As a well-informed Parisian cultist, Elaine Sciolino has laid one more beautiful and amusing wreath on the altar of the City of Light.
... an extended love letter to the Seine, from its ancient underground source in a 'forgotten corner of Burgundy' to its drab discharge into the English Channel at Le Havre .... In too many spots, though, The Seine reads slightly more like an almanac than a love letter. With this sweeping level of research, the reader has the sense that no tidbit is excluded ... In fact, it’s clear that this book is meant not to be read in a narrative flow but to be sampled bit by bit, like the delicate macarons that line the shelves of so many patisseries ... With that attitude in mind, it’s fun to select the morsels, from those that will undoubtedly impress and disgust dinner companions to those that might come in handy in a trivia contest ... And Francophiles like me might find themselves collecting ideas for new places to visit ... Sciolino reaches the right elegiac note in her afterword. Although the book was mostly finished before the devastating April fire at Notre Dame, she added a final section that allowed her to conclude this homage to her adopted river, city and country ... At the same time, the book falls short in places. An entire chapter on the photography of the Seine offers up just one photo ... And this love letter sometimes comes closer to the tone of a guidebook ... But there are worse things than being seduced by a river, even if it sometimes leads to a couple of weak-kneed sighs.
This entertaining account flows along like a love letter to the Seine, the second longest river in France. Tracing its storied history and many complexities, author Sciolino...offers brief chapters that integrate historical research, personal anecdotes, interviews, and perceptive observations ... Readers will enjoy this engaging and authoritative account, whether planning a trip, reminiscing about past travels, or sitting in an armchair, dreaming of wandering along romantic riverbanks.