Matthew’s new book gets plaudits

In the latest Times Literary Supplement, guest writer Matthew Cobb’s new book, Eleven Days in August: The Liberation of Paris in 1944, gets a very positive review by Robert Gildea, professor of history at Oxford. Sadly, the review is behind a paywall, so I’ve asked Matthew to give me a precis:

Outs me as ‘Professor of Biology’ (in fact Zoology) and says ‘He is one of those non-professional historians who set professionals the challenge of writing history in a way that is both scholarly and attractive.’ Calls it a ‘page-turning account’. ‘Cobb’s account of the  Liberation is itself filmic, in the vein of John Reed’s 1919 account  of the Bolshevik Revolution, Ten Days that Shook the World.’… And  for those who know their French historians, it praises me highly: ‘In  the tradition of Jules Michelet, the people of Paris form the heart of this account.’

If you haven’t read Reed’s book (it’s the basis for Warren Beatty’s movie “Reds”), you should. It’s a classic, and this comparison is high praise indeed. I’ve also read Matthew’s book, as a pre-submission “editor,” and it’s very good. It uses first-hand accounts, diaries, and letters to tell the story of Paris’s liberation as it happened. It’s gripping, lively, and at times ineffably sad. It’s hard for us, at this remove, to imagine the joy of the citizens of Paris as their beautiful city was wrenched from the grip of the Nazis and given back to them, and Matthew’s book conveys it superbly.

Picture 1

Eleven Days is currently available in the UK and Commonwealth, but will soon be available as well in US bookshops. In the meantime, it can be ordered from both Amazon UK and Amazon US.


  1. jesperbothpedersen1
    Posted August 1, 2013 at 5:06 am | Permalink

    Congrats to Mr. Cobb.

    • gbjames
      Posted August 1, 2013 at 5:07 am | Permalink


  2. Posted August 1, 2013 at 5:43 am | Permalink

    Congratulations, Matthew!

  3. darrelle
    Posted August 1, 2013 at 5:54 am | Permalink

    Congratulations Matthew Cobb! I am very much looking forward to reading your new book. It has been some time since, but for years I pretty seriously researched WWII, amateurishly, and have been fascinated with it since I was a young boy.

    But, there is such a huge and varied history to it that it is impossible to be well versed in the entirety of it, and I am not very familiar with the liberation of Paris. Looking forward to rectifying that.

    By chance are you familiar with the bookCitizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour
    by Lynne Olson, and if so could you offer a brief comment on it?

  4. Dominic
    Posted August 1, 2013 at 6:07 am | Permalink

    Well done Matthew.

    Also Richard Dawkins just tweeted “Ullica Segerstrale’s biography of WD Hamilton is well reviewed in latest Times Lit Supp + nice cover photo of dear Bill”

  5. Posted August 1, 2013 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    I wonder if Matthew Cobb was inspired by the 1960s book “Is Paris Burning?”, title derived from the famous exchange between Hitler and Colonel General Alfred Jodl? Hitler, by 1944, was well aware that the war was lost, and ordered destruction everywhere in the retreat of German forces. He ordered Paris burned to the ground. And so he called General Jodl to confirm his orders had been carried out:

    “Jodl, brennt Paris? Brennt Paris?”

    Congratulations to Mr. Cobb upon the publication of his book, “Eleven Days in August”, which I am sure was a supremely satisfying accomplishment for him, and the fruition of huge amounts of research.

    • Posted August 1, 2013 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

      Sadly, there is no evidence that that dramatic phrase was ever uttered to von Choltitz (not Jodl). You might want to consider my book as a corrective to much of the mythology in the Lapierre and Collins book. Sadly, I don’t have quite such an exciting title!

      • bonetired
        Posted August 2, 2013 at 6:06 am | Permalink

        Beat me to it. Not having written the book I can completely agree with Matthew without prejudice!

        “Is Paris Burning?” struck me as a self-serving book designed to put Choltitz in as good a light as possible (given his role in atrocities in Russia).

        Choltitz reminds me somewhat of another German who, through one good act (his role in the surrender of German forces in Italy in 1945) was forgiven the fact that he was up to his neck in blood – Karl Wolff

      • Posted August 2, 2013 at 10:36 am | Permalink

        Matthew, thank you, sir. As the old nugget goes, “History is but a fable agreed upon.”

        Many WWII stories, so given as the honest truth, have been corrected in recent years. It would seem amazing that such long intervals pass and the actual witnesses die, and then the truth is revealed. But I think that the avalanche of both newly-available Russian archives and the ability to travel to former Eastern Bloc countries has something to do with that. In addition, many personal histories, letters, files, are reaching a wider audience through the internet.

        I look forward to reading your book and its “corrective” scholarship!

  6. Kevin
    Posted August 1, 2013 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    Will be eagerly awaiting the Nook edition.

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