Julian Barnes

Did Light Novels Finish the French Monarchy?

The Forbidden Bestsellers of Pre-Revolutionary France

By Robert Darnton

HarperCollins 440pp £20 order from our bookshop

The fall of the House of Windsor will at the time appear inevitable. But the precise causes, when subsequent historians come to tease them out, will still lack clarity. To what extent did the dynasty auto-destruct, blundering away the natural advantages of its position in a display of vanity, greed, petty squabbling and iffy morals? How did ‘public opinion’ affect events? How significant was the intellectual tradition of radical republicanism? (An easy one, that.) How important was Rupert Murdoch? Andrew Morton? The Sun? Anna Pasternak? What specific weight should be ascribed to colonic irrigation, Susie Orbach and Laurens van der Post in the weakening of the monarchy?

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