The Greater Journey : Americans in Paris

From Ellen Druda
Author:  David McCullough
The Greater Journey : Americans in Paris
“Not all pioneers went west.”  McCullough looks at Paris in the 19th century as the other destiny for Americans as they looked to expand their horizons as a new nation.  Starting in 1830, we watch the prominent citizens come and go: Samuel Morse, James Fennimore Cooper, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Henry James, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent, Mark Twain, P.T. Barnum, and many more make their way there for short or extended stays.  We see the beautiful City of Lights blossom into a metropolis filled with beautiful architecture, large fragrant gardens, and cosmopolitan citizens of the highest taste in fashion and the arts.  We are witness, via the unforgettable diary entries of diplomat Elihu Washburne, the Franco-Prussian war and the long siege of Paris.The book ends with the Universelle Paris Exposition of 1900 as the new century begins, noting the changes just around the corner with the exhibited paintings of the teenage Pablo Picasso.

The house of mirth

From Charlene Muhr
author: Wharton, Edith
The house of mirth [sound recording]
I recently listened to the audio book The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton, read by Barbara Caruso.  Caruso mesmerizes the listener with her reading of this classic novel.  Wharton’s novel was first published in 1905, and it was her first important work of fiction.  The novel deals with the social classes in the late nineteenth century.  Lily Bart is twenty-nine, unmarried, and obsessed with wealth and luxury.  She is dependent on her aunt for her meager allowance and the only way to secure her place among the upper class is to marry a wealthy man.  Lily has passed up some marriage proposals, always feeling she could do better.  She even turns away from her true love, Lawrence Selden, because he couldn’t provide her with the life she desired.  Lily’s obsessions, gambling addiction, and bad relationships, cause her to fall from her aunt’s good graces and be rejected by her friends.  Her world as she knows it collapses and she is faced with only one tragic choice.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet

From Rita Gross
author: Mitchell, David
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet 
Jacob De Zoet, to prove himself worthy of his wealthy fiancé, travels to Japan to make his fortune.  In the final years of the 18th century Japanese trade is closed to all but the Dutch East India Company.  To complicate matters, Jacob falls in love with the daughter of a Samurai, and the British want to open Japan for trade.  Wonderful writing and rich historic detail make this a very satisfying read.