This quarter’s non-fiction book club selection, The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris, is a whopping 558 page travelogue/history of Paris between the 1830s through the early 1900s. In these pages, McCullough tells the tale of the Americans that were brave enough, fortunate enough, or foolish enough to make the difficult trek from America to France. Some were authors (Mark Twain, James Fennimore Cooper, Henry James) and painters (Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent) as well as future doctors, sculptors, singers, and showmen. Way too many to talk about here; even too many to talk about with the book group. But here’s a summary of what we did have time to discuss:
- Everyone loved the book. And the author.
- Everyone learned a lot. Some examples include:
- Paris was way ahead of the U. S. when it came to admitting women into their medical schools.
- Samuel Morse was a painter before he invented the Morse Code.
- Mary Cassatt was basically a shut-in.
- If it were up to the “artsy” people of Paris, the Eiffel Tower would have never been built. Or remain after the World’s Fair.
- The entire Statue of Liberty gift thing is still iffy.
- David McCullough’s reason to call it “The Greater Journey” was because all of these individuals were greatly changed by their decision to go to Paris.
Overall, a great discussion for a great book and highly recommended.