Gillian Tindall

Wild France

The Discovery of France


Picador 454pp £18.99 order from our bookshop

Rid your mind of the idea – suggested by the ordinary title – that this is an ordinary book for first-time excursionists into French territory. It could indeed be taken with advantage in the backpack of almost anyone wandering round Europe’s largest, most varied and beautiful country, but essentially it is written as a corrective to the Napoleon-and-after, Third Republican standpoint to which we (and the French) have become so accustomed. For the last two hundred years we have been insistently offered the image of one France, unique and indivisible, with a centralised administration in Paris to which all roads lead, and a homogenised system strong on national directives which manage to percolate through even to the tiniest Mairie in the remotest district (‘flags will be flown to celebrate the Day of Patrimony’). In reality, as Graham Robb, specialist in nineteenth-century French literature and dedicated cyclist, makes abundantly clear, till very recent times much of France has been far odder than this. It has been a land of warring tribes, a number of languages, hundreds of dialects, different prejudices and habits, and a remarkable ignorance of the neighbours in the next valley, let alone those in other regions. 

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'It would be nice to think that women will achieve equal pay in my lifetime, rather than to watch gloomily as stati… ,
    • In 1660, two of the signatories of King Charles I's death warrant fled across the Atlantic to New England. But were… ,
    • Howard Jacobson's sixteenth novel is 'a love story of sorts, one characterised not by physical desire or even conta… ,
    • 'The sudden immersion in the new and unfamiliar can lead people to write with a rare lack of self-consciousness' P… ,
    • 'Pools bend the rules. Clothes slip off, skin glistens, consciousness heightens. A dreamlike scenario unfolds' Jam… ,
    • 'Although he surely didn’t know W H Auden’s theory that every high C proclaims human freedom and our capacity to tr… ,
    • RT : With beginning tomorrow, we've uncovered a 1997 article from the archive reviewing 'Golf Dream… ,