The Discovery of France tells the story of the unification of France as one cultural identity stitched together out of the zillion little villages, languages, cheeses that surround the capital of Paris. It's a cultural history of France in the 18th and 19th centuries exploring life in the country before it was truly unified by roads and telegraphs.

The author does a great job conveying just how large a country France is and how far-flung places are before travel and communication was easy. The chapter title "O Òc Sí Bai Ya Win Oui Oyi Awè Jo Ja Oua" gives an idea of the author's approach, in this case cataloging the linguistic diversity of various words for "yes" across France. The book is full of amusing anecdotes from travellers, explanations of religions, the role of the Enlightnement and the Revolution in unifying the co untry, and overall a deep love for the French countryside.

I particularly liked reading this book as an American. Our vault into modernity comes at the same time as the founding of the country itself; we never had an isolated agrarian past. European history is quite different.

I've been reading a lot of books lately. I hope to blog about them more, reviving a 13 year old tradition.
  2009-07-29 17:14 Z