France and the French: La Vie en Bleu Since 1900

In This Review

France and the French: La Vie en Bleu Since 1900

By Rod Kedward
Overlook Press, 2006
712 pp. $35.00
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Kedward's work as a historian has dealt mainly with the heroism and tragedy of the French Resistance, but his new volume does for France since 1900 what Tony Judt has done for Europe since World War II: it provides a sweeping narration of an extraordinarily complex, agitated, often ferocious, and profoundly confusing period of history. He looks at it from the perspective of a man sympathetic to social democracy but fully aware of the ideological pitfalls along the whole spectrum of French politics. He knows the relevance of culture (high and low) to French public life, and his portraits of French leaders are fair. The most engaging parts of the book, though, are those that deal with France during and after the late 1960s. Kedward is fully the master of his subject, and yet, like all good "French experts," he is baffled by the everlasting battle between continuity (an often exasperating continuity) and change -- change imposed from above, from abroad, or, more rarely, from below.