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France

London Luxury Homes Seen Losing Luster

A windfall tax on monster basements could solve London’s housing problem

31 August 2013

The mega-rich are best housed behind high fences, on wooded estates patrolled by dogs; that way, they don’t have to annoy the rest of us. But I can see how… Read more

Outdoor Umbrellas

Jeremy Clarke: The day I walked into a postcard

31 August 2013

This time last year the postman delivered a picture postcard depicting a village square in Provence. The photograph on the front of that postcard was contemporary, but the colours were… Read more

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Jeremy Clarke’s joy at a two-speed oscilating fan in la chaleur TGV

17 August 2013

Hotel Trepaner, St Raphael, French Riviera: I have read all ten reviews on this site. The overall rating (given by five of the ten reviewers) is ‘terrible’. ‘Disastreux!’ says Kimi.… Read more

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Whisper it, but the big banks are finally getting their houses in order

10 August 2013

By and large it was a good week for the big banks — underpinned by encouraging news from the wider economy, in which every little uptick brings a few more… Read more

Unassuming: Port-en-Bessin today

Notes on…Normandy

20 July 2013

There are some, I know, who for whom Normandy means the three Cs — cider, cream and calvados. But if, like me, you’re more of a three B person —… Read more

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Watch out France: Nicolas Sarkozy is back, and he wants revenge

Nicolas Sarkozy is angry — a ‘caged lion’, one of his closest friends told Le Monde last week. He is angry about the state of France, the state of his… Read more

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Fête de la Musique: Couldn’t we just get over ourselves, risk a bit of foreign and join

6 July 2013

One of the many cultural initiatives to have come out of France in the past 50 years — and therefore by definition to have been viewed with suspicion by the… Read more

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Chronicle of a Summer: Reality TV decades before it had a name

29 June 2013

Here’s a documentary called Chronicle of a Summer. Which summer? Why, the summer of 1960, in Paris, when fag-end colonial struggles were burning away in Algeria and other parts of… Read more

The lesson of France and Italy - the worse the country, the better the wine

25 May 2013

Although I promise to move on to drink, forgive me for beginning with a less interesting but even more complex subject: government. It is easy to patronise the Italians. The… Read more

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Don’t believe the hype: the French still live better than Americans

4 May 2013

In recent months I’ve read at least ten articles about French malaise — all of it apparently due to some mysterious Gallic trait that makes the world’s luckiest people unable… Read more

The armoured cars of Leclerc’s division arrive at the Rue Guynemer on 25 August

Eleven Days in August, by Matthew Cobb - review

4 May 2013
Eleven Days in August: The Liberation of Paris in 1944 Matthew Cobb

Simon and Schuster, pp.525, £25, ISBN: 9780857203175

It is fair to assume that Professor Matthew Cobb has often been asked if he is related to Professor Richard Cobb since he begins the acknowledgements of his new book… Read more

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Why should our children be more like the French?

27 April 2013

I’ve no particular beef with the French, gruesomely tortured beef as it would no doubt be, but I’m a little tired of being told we ought to follow their example… Read more

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Why France's gay marriage debate has started to look like a revolution

27 April 2013

Paris: Revolutions are often sparked by an unexpected shock to an already weakened regime. As commentators in France remark not only on the crisis engulfing François Hollande’s government but also on… Read more

Thatcher changed the City for the better – but human nature led it astray

13 April 2013

‘Margaret had no love for the banks,’ Nigel Lawson wrote in The View from No. 11. The idea that the amoral greed of the City and the banking crisis it… Read more

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Storm in a wastepaper basket

11 February 2012
The Dreyfus Affair Piers Paul Read

Bloomsbury, pp.408, 25

‘It’s the revenge of Dreyfus,’ came the cry from the dock. The speaker was the veteran right-wing ideologue, Charles Maurras, found guilty of treason in 1945 for his support of… Read more

Chagrin d’amour

19 November 2011
The Horror of Love: Nancy Mitford and Gaston Palewski in Paris and London Lisa Hilton

Orion, pp.263, 20

The horror of love: Nancy Mitford’s first fiancé was gay; her husband, Peter Rodd, was feckless, spendthrift and unsympathetic, and her great amour, Gaston Palewski, was endlessly unfaithful. She met… Read more

French with tears

6 August 2011
When the World Spoke French Marc Fumaroli, translated from the French by Richard Howard

NYRB Classics, pp.576, 11.99

The civilised world has always needed a lingua franca, through which educated people of international outlook can communicate with each other. For centuries that language was Latin, first the language… Read more

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Hall of mirrors

4 June 2011
And the Show Went On: Cultural Life in Nazi-occupied Paris Alan Riding

Duckworth Overlook, pp.399, 20

After the Nazi occupation of Paris was over, Sartre famously said — somewhat hypocritically, given his own slippery behaviour — that the only possibilities had been collaboration or resistance. After… Read more

Very drôle

28 May 2011
Paris Revealed Stephen Clarke

Bantam, pp.278, 10.99

It’s nice to know that the trees lining the roads in Paris have microchips embedded in their trunks, that the city council is controlling the pigeon population by shaking the… Read more

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Setting the world to rights

7 May 2011
Wicked Company: Freethinkers and Friendship in Pre-Revolutionary Paris Philipp Blom

Weidenfeld, pp.384, 25

Wicked Company is the collective biography of a group of men with little in common, apart from a generalised dissatisfaction with the state of the world around them. Perhaps that… Read more

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Massacre of the innocents

12 March 2011
The Killer of Little Shepherds: The Case of the French Ripper and the Birth of Forensic Science Douglas Starr

Simon & Schuster, pp.312, 16.99

‘La justice flétrit, la prison corrompt et la société a les criminels qu’elle mérite’ — Justice withers, prison corrupts, and society gets the criminals it deserves. ‘La justice flétrit, la… Read more

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The French connection

7 August 2010
The House with Blue Shutters Lisa Hilton

Corvus, pp.419, 7.99

If ever there was a novel to which that old adage about not judging a book by its cover could be applied, it’s this one. If ever there was a… Read more

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L’homme qui dit non

31 July 2010
The General Jonathan Fenby

Simon & Schuster, pp.707, 30

The study of history is a subversive calling. All countries make up a story that suits their idea of themselves. Authoritarians stamp out independent historical scholarship; extreme nationalists simply vilify… Read more

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Scourge of the ancien régime

14 April 2010
Voltaire Ian Davidson

Profile, pp.538, 25

Voltaire’s was a long and amazing life. Voltaire’s was a long and amazing life. He was tragedian, satirist, mathematician, courtier, exile, jailbird, swindler, gardener, plutocrat, watchmaking entrepreneur, penal reform campaigner,… Read more

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The people and the place

7 April 2010
Parisians Graham Robb

Picador, pp.462, 18.99

Where to begin? Graham Robb, like all dedicated Francophiles, begins early, when his enlightened parents made him a present of a trip to Paris and sent him off with a… Read more