France: An Adventure History (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

Graham Robb combines decades of experience into this interesting pairing of travelogue with French history. Each chapter in France is a self-contained story, focusing on a region or tale that Robb goes to explore. Some of my favorite sections included the inquisition and a map that details one specific tree. I learned a lot from this book on France that I had not known but found utterly fascinating. A fun read that makes me want to, well, not bike France, but perhaps ride the rails through France.

— Jason Kennedy


A wholly original history of France, filled with a lifetime’s knowledge and passion—by the author of the New York Times bestseller Parisians.

Beginning with the Roman army’s first recorded encounter with the Gauls and ending in the era of Emmanuel Macron, France takes readers on an endlessly entertaining journey through French history. Frequently hilarious, always surprising, Graham Robb’s France combines the stylistic versatility of a novelist with the deep understanding of a scholar.

Robb’s own adventures and discoveries while living, working, and traveling in France connect this tour through space and time with on-the-ground experience. There are scenes of wars and revolutions from the plains of Provence to the slums and boulevards of Paris. Robb conveys with wit and precision what it felt like to look over the shoulder of a young Louis XIV as he planned the vast garden of Versailles, and the dangerous thrill of having a ringside seat at the French revolution. Some of the protagonists may be familiar, but appear here in a very different light—Caesar, Charlemagne, Louis XIV, Napoleon Bonaparte, General Charles de Gaulle.

This extraordinary narrative is the fruit of decades of research and thirty thousand miles on a self-propelled, two-wheeled time machine (a bicycle). Even seasoned Francophiles will wonder if they really know that terra incognita on the edge of Europe that is currently referred to as “France.”

About the Author

Graham Robb is the author of three prize-winning biographies, each selected as New York Times Best Books. His books, including The Discovery of Middle Earth, Parisians, and The Discovery of France, have earned several awards. He lives on the Anglo-Scottish border.

Praise For…

Mr. Robb’s own collaborations with the land have yielded another champion performance.
— Boyd Tonkin - Wall Street Journal

[A] rich and vibrant narrative that ranges from the Gauls to the gilets jaunes...His clear-eyed but imaginative storytelling scrutinises the more idiosyncratic features of France’s historical landscape.
— Lucy Wadham - Financial Times

[A] quirky, amused, erudite homage to the French people.
— Ruth Scurr - The Times (UK)

[A] sweeping, spirited, and refreshingly unsentimental portrait of France, from the Bronze Age to the present...Delightful, discerning, and charmingly irreverent.
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Robb here challenges the idea of a lone scholar holed up in a vast library by approaching his subject from the seat of a bicycle. This unique view, and Robb's penetrating eye, offer close-up looks at settings most of us know only from photographs or maps.... Refreshing as well as deeply researched.
— Booklist (starred review)

Product Details
ISBN: 9781324002567
ISBN-10: 1324002565
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: July 5th, 2022
Pages: 544
Language: English