Please sign in to post.

Is Paris Burning?

The best non-fiction book I have ever read while visiting Europe is "Is Paris Burning?" by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre. If you are going to the City of Lights and want to take a book or get one there, this would be an excellent choice, regardless of whether you are interested in World War II history.

Humanity is fortunate to have Paris. The Nazis wired key structures--every bridge across the Seine, Notre Dame Cathedral, the reservoirs feeding the city, every major manufacturing facility--with explosives and planned to leave the city in rubble, like they did with Warsaw, as the Allies closed in. The book's title comes from none other than Hitler, who screamed the question in a rage at his commander in Paris, Dietrich von Choltitz. Von Choltitz was no softy but a brutal German general who was trained to win victory for Germany regardless of the cost and to pledge loyalty to his fuhrer. Why von Choltitz defied Hitler, thereby saving Paris, makes a compelling story. (I do not want to spoil the story.) I have visited Paris twice. After I read this book, I was grateful that Paris is there, a beacon of beauty, like the Eiffel Tower.

The book is a bit long, the product of two aggressive investigative journalists, it's only flaw. But it is compelling and definitely worth reading. Visit Shakespeare & Co. on the Seine to pick up a copy.

Posted by
2040 posts

Thanks,cbarner. I've downloaded it and am looking forward to a great read!

Posted by
11450 posts

Thanks,, sounds like a book I will have to read!

Posted by
9 posts

I agree. This book brought occupied Paris to life in a thrilling way. Good call!

Posted by
6369 posts

For those who prefer movies to books the film, released in 1966 is also excellent with an international all-star cast and filmed on location in Paris.

Posted by
8055 posts

I saw the movie when I was young and it made a huge impression on me and I've never forgotten it. It was excellent. I've always wanted to see it again but have never been able to find it...

Posted by
6369 posts

Susan, it's available on Amazon if you're interested. I also saw it when it came out in 1966 and still remember it.

Posted by
285 posts

That was a terrific book, I can highly recommend it.

If you are traveling to Spain, another Collins/Lapierre book may be of interest: "Or I'll Dress You in Mourning", the story of El Cordobes, one of Spain's premiere bullfighters, but it is more generally about the years of the Spanish Civil War and the takeover by Franco. I read it in college and never forgot what a compelling picture it painted of the terrible hardship of the peons during the years of war and the eventual loss of their country to Franco.

It's kind of a twist of fate that El Cordobes ends up one of the richest bullfighters of the times, after nearly starving as a child and running afoul of the local gentry for sneaking onto their property to hone his bullfighting skills.

Just as a disclaimer, I am totally opposed to bullfighting in all its forms. I am merely recommending what I considered a good read.

Posted by
103 posts

If I ever get to Paris, there are locations in the movie "The Day of the Jackal" that I would love to visit.

Posted by
170 posts

dchewning_4: Thank you for recommending "Or I'll Dress You in Mourning." I had not heard of that work, though I am a book enthusiast. I have heard of the bullfighter El Cordobes, and the detail you mention -- that he sneaked onto the property of the wealthy to hone his bullfighting skills -- is interesting.

You raised the issue of the morality of bullfighting. I have mixed feelings. I saw a bullfight in Las Ventas stadium in Madrid two summers ago. It did seem like organized cruelty against an animal, but I came to that opinion in the comfort of my seat, even if it was in the sun. The bullfighters and matadors in the ring were facing a ton of living, breathing aggression in the form of the bull, with their capes, swords and wits as weapons. They would argue that under those conditions, a bullfight is justified, but it is an issue worthy of debate.

Posted by
8055 posts

cbarner1, it was the bullfighter's choice to be there. The bull had no choice.

Posted by
8055 posts

Nancy, thank you so much for the Amazon tip! I can't wait to watch it again.

Posted by
1280 posts

Another enthusiastic vote for Is Paris Burning? What a page turner! You know that Paris doesn't burn but the authors still keep you on the edge of your seat. I didn't find it overly long but really liked how the authors brought in so many characters to the story. I have often recommended this book, glad to see others have liked the book too.