A Tale of Paris: Edward Rutherfurd at the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival

cover: ParisEdward Rutherfurd has known Paris well for most of his life and in his latest book he puts that knowledge to good use. Paris crosses centuries in the history of the city of light, following the fortunes of several families as they rise and fall through wars, revolutions, occupation, love and art.

Rutherfurd is a master of the big book. You may be relieved to know this is one of his shorter efforts – less than 800 pages and only spanning 700 years. It’s less of an orderly progression through history than his others; Paris alternates between the late 19th century and the eras before and after it.

Most of the action is set it in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with the French Revolution dealt with in one chapter, but Rutherfurd still manages to get lots of facts into his richly detailed story.

Wearing a jaunty black beret he told his second sold-out session of the festival why he changed the structure – his publisher and he wanted to shorten the book.

Rutherfurd and Wayne Macauley are very different writers but they both said the exact same thing at their sessions – “You’ve got to love your characters”.

Rutherfurd finds his plots and human stories in research. For Paris he used stories from his own family, but he also achieved the detail he is famous for by his usual methods of  reading a lot of history and visiting the best historical museums. He also swears by the little museums and the local historians.

So will he ever run out of capitals? Fans will be relieved to know it’s unlikely – he always has six or seven books at the back of his mind at any one time; books he has actually done research on. Perhaps next time he’ll get it down to 500 pages.

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