When it comes to making history live, nobody does it better than David McCullough. Now, with The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris, he’s done it again in spades. You won’t find Hemingway or Gertrude Stein or any of the Americans we usually associate with the City of Light. The Yankees in McCullough’s account were the first wave of “talented, aspiring Americans” who began to make the transformative, transatlantic voyage in increasing numbers in the 1830s. From James Fenimore Cooper, Samuel F.B. Morse, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Elizabeth Blackwell to Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent and Harriet Beecher Stowe, they came to learn and to immerse themselves in a kindred yet very different culture where wine was cheaper than milk, the food was fabulous, the boulevards were broad and the astounding treasures of the Louvre were open to the public. Weaving detailed bios of these Americans into the colorful fabric of Parisian history from 1830 to 1900, McCullough makes excellent use of his ability to simultaneously entertain and educate, while master narrator Edward Herrmann’s perfect pacing makes this journey from apple pie to tarte tatin into compelling listening.
July 14, 2011