The Greater Journey by David McCullough
Americans in Paris

73%

19 Critic Reviews

There is plenty here to entertain and inform. It is contingent upon readers to let go, to flow, in order to take a greater journey themselves.
-Blog Critics

Synopsis

The #1 bestseller that tells the remarkable story of the generations of American artists, writers, and doctors who traveled to Paris, the intellectual, scientific, and artistic capital of the western world, fell in love with the city and its people, and changed America through what they learned, told by America’s master historian, David McCullough.

Not all pioneers went west.

In The Greater Journey, David McCullough tells the enthralling, inspiring—and until now, untold—story of the adventurous American artists, writers, doctors, politicians, and others who set off for Paris in the years between 1830 and 1900, hungry to learn and to excel in their work. What they achieved would profoundly alter American history.

Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female doctor in America, was one of this intrepid band. Another was Charles Sumner, whose encounters with black students at the Sorbonne inspired him to become the most powerful voice for abolition in the US Senate. Friends James Fenimore Cooper and Samuel F. B. Morse worked unrelentingly every day in Paris, Morse not only painting what would be his masterpiece, but also bringing home his momentous idea for the telegraph. Harriet Beecher Stowe traveled to Paris to escape the controversy generated by her book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Three of the greatest American artists ever—sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, painters Mary Cassatt and John Singer Sargent—flourished in Paris, inspired by French masters.

Almost forgotten today, the heroic American ambassador Elihu Washburne bravely remained at his post through the Franco-Prussian War, the long Siege of Paris, and the nightmare of the Commune. His vivid diary account of the starvation and suffering endured by the people of Paris is published here for the first time.

Telling their stories with power and intimacy, McCullough brings us into the lives of remarkable men and women who, in Saint-Gaudens’ phrase, longed “to soar into the blue.
 

About David McCullough

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David McCullough has been widely acclaimed as a “master of the art of narrative history” and “a matchless writer.” He is twice winner of the Pulitzer Prize, twice winner of the National Book Award, and has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award.Mr. McCullough’s most recent book, The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris, the #1 New York Times bestseller, has been called “dazzling,” “an epic of ideas…history to be savored.” His previous work, 1776, has been acclaimed “a classic,” while John Adams, published in 2001, remains one of the most praised and widely read American biographies of all time. More than three million copies are in print and it is presently in its eighty-second printing.In the words of the citation accompanying his honorary degree from Yale, “As an historian, he paints with words, giving us pictures of the American people that live, breathe, and above all, confront the fundamental issues of courage, achievement, and moral character.”Mr. McCullough’s other books include The Johnstown Flood, The Great Bridge, The Path between the Seas, Mornings on Horseback, Brave Companions, and Truman. His work has been published in ten languages and, in all, more than 9,500,000 copies are in print. As may be said of few writers, none of his books has ever been out of print.Mr. McCullough is also twice winner of the prestigious Francis Parkman Prize, and for his work overall, he has been honored by the National Book Foundation Distinguished Contribution to American Letters Award and the National Humanities Medal. He has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, as well as the American Academy of Arts and Letters and has received forty-seven honorary degrees.In a crowded, productive career, he has been an editor, essayist, teacher, lecturer, and familiar presence on public television—as host of Smithsonian World, The American Experience, and narrator of numerous documentaries, including Ken Burns’s The Civil War. His is also the narrator’s voice in the movie Seabiscuit.John Adams, the seven-part mini-series on HBO, produced by Tom Hanks and starring Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney, was one of the most acclaimed and talked about television events of recent years.A gifted speaker, Mr. McCullough has lectured in all parts of the country and abroad, as well as at the White House. He is also one of the few private citizens to speak before a joint session of Congress.Born in Pittsburgh in 1933, Mr. McCullough was educated there and at Yale, where he graduated with honors in English literature. He is an avid reader and traveler, and has enjoyed a lifelong interest in art and architecture. He is a devoted painter as well. Mr. McCullough and his wife, Rosalee Barnes McCullough, have five children and eighteen grandchildren.
 
Published May 24, 2011 by Simon & Schuster. 578 pages
Genres: History, Travel, Biographies & Memoirs. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Jun 12 2011
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Weeks as Bestseller
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Critic reviews for The Greater Journey
All: 19 | Positive: 13 | Negative: 6

Kirkus

Excellent
Reviewed by Kirkus Reviews on Apr 01 2011

A gorgeously rich, sparkling patchwork, eliciting stories from diaries and memoirs to create the human drama McCullough depicts so well.

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NY Times

Excellent
Reviewed by STACY SCHIFF on May 27 2011

...he explores the intellectual legacy that France settled on its 19th-century visitors. The result is an epic of ideas, as well as an exhilarating book of spells.

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NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Janet Maslin on May 22 2011

His latest lavishly produced volume has a...stellar cast of historically important American characters and a long, impressive bibliography. What it does not have is a unifying premise.

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Blog Critics

Excellent
Reviewed by Meredith Ann Rutter on Aug 10 2011

There is plenty here to entertain and inform. It is contingent upon readers to let go, to flow, in order to take a greater journey themselves.

Read Full Review of The Greater Journey: American... | See more reviews from Blog Critics

Washington Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Claude Marx on May 13 2011

He doesn’t break much new ground, but does a masterful job of synthesizing a great deal of information and telling the story of that time period in a compelling and engaging manner.

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National Post arts

Excellent
Reviewed by Alan Kellogg on Jul 15 2011

...is a satisfying Yankee patchwork quilt that takes us back to a time when pre-freedom fries Americans of merit looked up to France in a wide variety of pursuits, thirsty for knowledge, experience and adventure.

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LA Times

Below average
Reviewed by Wendy Smith on May 29 2011

His well-written text is so episodic that it ultimately seems unfocused.

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The Washington Post

Excellent
Reviewed by Michael Sims on Jun 17 2011

“The Greater Journey” is a lively and entertaining panorama, with abundant details along the way.

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Christian Science Monitor

Excellent
Reviewed by Michael Taube on May 25 2011

McCullough’s superb writing style – an exquisite combination of crisp academic inclination with a light, whimsical storytelling component – brings these unique characters to life in a robust, exciting manner.

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San Francisco Chronicle

Excellent
Reviewed by Bruce Watson on May 21 2011

With his finely honed eloquence and eye for human interest, McCullough weaves them all into a narrative that is by turns charming, rambling and meticulously detailed.

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The Seattle Times

Below average
Reviewed by Kevin Hamilton on May 21 2011

...focus on such a wide cast of characters renders the portrait of each one superficial, scattered by a wide historical lens and large cast.

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Huntington News

Excellent
Reviewed by David Kinchen on Jul 18 2011

It's a book that should remind us that the author, who turned 78 on July 7, is at the height of his powers.

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The New Republic

Below average
Reviewed by David Bell on Jul 03 2011

...but thanks to McCullough’s concentration on their personalities to the neglect of the historical context, there are things about their history that he simply misses.

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Jacksonville.com

Excellent
Reviewed by Anne Payne on Aug 21 2011

Think of "The Greater Journey" as a tasty reward for choking down those date-and-treaty textbooks.

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Chicago Sun Times

Excellent
Reviewed by John Barron on Jun 02 2011

There is not an uninteresting page here as one fascinating character after another is explored at a crucial stage of his development.

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The Pacific Northwest Inlander

Below average
Reviewed by Ted McGregor on Jun 08 2011

...McCullough’s Journey meanders as slowly as the Seine, like a lazy walk down a gallery of Impressionist sketches.

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Boston Daily

Below average
Reviewed by JASON SCHWARTZ on May 27 2011

It’s a bit of a strange read, insomuch as I found most of the book interesting, but, because of the lack of a central push, just couldn’t get that into it.

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National Post arts

Good
Reviewed by Alan Kellogg on Aug 03 2016

In the end, The Greater Journey is a satisfying Yankee patchwork quilt that takes us back to a time when pre-freedom fries Americans of merit looked up to France in a wide variety of pursuits, thirsty for knowledge, experience and adventure.

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A Traveler's Library

Good
Reviewed by Vera Marie Badertscher on Sep 12 2011

In the early sections, McCullough pulls off a complex act, juggling a great many life stories and at the same time filling in the history, culture, and look of Paris itself.

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Reader Rating for The Greater Journey
74%

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