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La Belle France, by Alistair Horne

As a boy, I was fascinated by France. It all started when I read a book about Napoleon and the Battle of Waterloo. I believe the book was called "Waterloo: The Hundred Days". It was that famous interlude between Napoleon's escape from Elba and his surrender to a ship of the British Navy. Seeing reproductions of paintings depicting troops in seried ranks, charging, fighting and generally sacrificing themselves for the Glory of France sparked my imagination.

Since then, my enthusiasm for the nation has waned. But my vital interest in its history has not. One of the great questions of modern history is "Why France?" Alistair Horne's great survey history, "La Belle France: A Short History", goes a long way to answering this question. It takes 500 pages to tell the story from its ancient origins all the way to the present.

Alistair Horne manages not to gloss over any of the important moments and his analysis of major trends and movements is cogent and thought provoking. This is a book for anyone who is remotely interested in the History of France. Better than going back to school to take a graduate course on the subject (and you won't have to write a paper when you are done).

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