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.