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Paris 1919

Six Months That Changed the World
Written by: Margaret MacMillan
Narrated by: Suzanne Toren
Length: 25 hrs and 47 mins
Categories: History, World
4.5 out of 5 stars (25 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Winner of the Samuel Johnson Prize, renowned historian Margaret MacMillan's best-selling Paris 1919 is the story of six remarkable months that changed the world. At the close of WWI, between January and July of 1919, delegates from around the world converged on Paris under the auspices of peace. New countries were created, old empires were dissolved, and for six months, Paris was the center of the world. Bringing to vivid life the individuals who participated in the great Peace Conference, including Woodrow Wilson, Winston Churchill, Lawrence of Arabia, and Ho Chi Minh, Paris 1919 is a landmark work of narrative history.
©2002 Margaret MacMillan

What the critics say

"This book is a treasure." (Booklist)
"MacMillan's lucid prose brings her participants to colorful and quotable life, and the grand sweep of her narrative encompasses all the continents the peacemakers vainly carved up." (Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Informative and interesting

Incrediably full of facts and information without being too bland. The narrator is good, albeit not great, and pleasing to listen to. Not always clear when she is reading a quote - other Macmillan books I have listened to, the narrator took on accents which nicely broke things up. But her voice is good and her pace with the constant onslaught of facts is good.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Worth every minute

Margaret MacMillan's text is thorough, detailed and fascinating. She brings alive the players in this significant part of 20th century history. The narration is excellent and despite it being 25 hours long, I found myself wanting more at the end. I plan to listen to it again! Thanks for bringing this to the air. I find it so much easier to 'read' non fiction in this way.

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Martin
  • 2005-12-03

Excellent History

Compared with the Second, the First World War receives much less attention in popular history, including here on Audible. Macmillan has done a marvelous job of explaining the personalities and challenges faced at the 1919 peace conference in Paris. She sketches the leaders well and manages to explain the many interlocking issues without excessive detail or repetition. She avoids the conventional wisdom and offers a balanced view. The overall impact is a compelling narrative with humour and quite a few "aha!" moments when the modern outcomes of the peace conference ecome clear. The author might be faulted for an excess of focus on Woodrow Wilson, but the book does not suffer too much for it. An informative picture of moral relativism and Realpolitik emerges, both in the American camp and elsewhere.

19 of 19 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • W. F. Rucker
  • 2009-02-07

Good book, well narrated

I have some familiarity with the topic but I am not sure that was necessary to appreciate this well written, thorough narrative of the conference of the Allied powers that was the final act of World War I. The author provides a very good description of the three men, Woodrow Wilson, David Lloyd George and Georges Clemenceau who together drew a new map of the world out of the destruction of WW I.
The author's style reminds me of Barbara Tuchman, who is one of my favorite authors. The book provides a wealth of information in a style that is never dry or boring. This is good narrative history that kept me interested in the story of one of the most important events of the 20th century. The author never got bogged down by the details as she told the final chapter of how the dynasties of Europe were replaced by a group of modern nations.
Ms. McMillan draws a fine picture, warts and all, of how these world changing decisions were made. Wilson is the idealist who gets worn down by the balance of power ideas of Clemenceau and Lloyd George. He finally lets them draw the map as long as the treaty includes the League of Nations. Clemenceau's goal is to grind down Germany and safeguard France. Lloyd George fights for the interests of England in Africa and the Middle East. The scene where the German delegation is presented with a treaty which they must sign or watch their country continue to starve shows how power was wielded by the Big Three.
I enjoyed the book very much and can only list a few high points in my limited space. The narrator is very good and certainly contributed to an overall experience that exceeded my expectations.

32 of 33 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • connie
  • 2011-10-20

accessible window on today's world

MacMillian uses the Paris Peace Conference as a window on not only the outcomes of WWI but also on its causes and course. As the intro states the "flawed decisons with terrible consequences" of that gathering still shape our contemporary world. Want to understand the G20? Start here.

Some reviewers have disliked the book's detail - but it was exactly the picturesque (and sometimes humourous) detail of a politico's personality or the power behind his throne that kept me listening past the dryer explanation of the redrawing of borders.

I liked Toren's narration of this nonfiction better than her voice for historical fiction. Although MacMillian isn't academic in tone, neither is she chatty or breezy, so Toren helps by lightening up the tone.

If you're tempted to try a Margaret MacMillian work to see why she sells so much history to average readers, this would be a good place to start. It's a listenable blend of social and political history.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Larry
  • 2005-12-24

History repeats itself.

Everyone with an oar in the water on Afghanistan and Iraq ought to read this book. Anyone who wonders why central Europe is so titanically messed up needs to read this book. Anyone who wants to know why the world looks the way it does today needs to read this book. It is at times dry and full of endless asides, but all the detail leads towards understanding. Very worthwhile.

28 of 30 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • R L Crepeau
  • 2006-01-02

Informative and entertaining

This is an outstanding book that probes the depths of the US, UK and French leaders and their thinking in 1919. It is informative as well as entertaining in the humanistic portrayals of participants in the 1919 peace conference. The best read book I've heard especially given I am hearing deficient.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • David A. Cadogan
  • 2007-06-30

Factual and colourful

I'm overwhelmed with the exhaustive effort Margaret MacMillan put into this book. For the first time, I have some idea of the challenges that faced the leaders of the day.
The book is rich in factual detail and coloured with the personal details, observations and personalites of the players.
It has immediately become a very important element in my understanding of the 20th century.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Pink Flame of Liberty
  • 2010-01-28

audible kids? no way

The intro that this is for audible kids was a shocker. I was an avid reader as a kid, but this book is way too tedious for a child, it would have caused me to jump out a window. However, as an adult, it is a very good and thorough history lesson. I learned more though about that period in American history (and indeed world history) than I ever knew before. Just when I thought the world leaders actually knew what they were doing, you find out that they were basically winging it.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • MarjD
  • 2006-03-14

Plodding narration

McMillan's scholarship is deep, her analyses incisive, her personal portraits illuminating and often humorous. My gripe is with the narration, which, to this American listener's ear, is plodding and "vedy sediously" pretentious, barely tolerable even with the iPod cranked up to warp speed. I'd recommend instead McMillan's lecture series on the same topic, available from audible.com, which is of course in her own, very delightful, voice.

23 of 26 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Carole T.
  • 2012-06-17

Packed with Insight

I have enormous respect for this writer and this book! It's long, but I had no trouble at all getting through it. So much information. If ever a book illustrated the old proverb "if you don't learn from history, you're doomed to repeat it", this one does! Read this for a fascinating portrayal of the times, the characters, the politics of this monumentally important occurrence at the end of WWI. I learned so much and it sent me on to other histories of the European wars of the 20th century. A truly extraordinary look at an amazing event!

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Carolyn
  • 2013-03-12

Interesting and Detailed but Not for Everyone

This was quite a marathon listen, even for me - and I regularly listen to long, dense non fiction and enjoy it. It wasn't so much the length but rather the degree of detail that made it seem like such a long book - it really went over every little bit of the peace conference. I appreciated this, since I bought it to learn about the conference, after all, but it was excruciating at times. It covers not only the peace treaties with Germany, Austria, Hungary, Turkey, and Bulgaria, but also the formation of Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Poland, Iraq, Armenia, Turkey, Syria, and Palestine (it covers border disputes in detail, so pulling up a map is really helpful if you do not have detailed maps of Europe and the Middle East memorized). It covers the Chinese-Japanese conflict in China, the origins of the dispute between Zionist Jews and Arab nationalists in Palestine, and the Russian civil war. It also gives a great deal of insight into the personalities of not just the biggest players, but also less well-known people like the leaders of British Empire dominions (like Canada and Australia - something this Canadian really appreciated), the leaders of defeated countries, nationalist leaders like Ataturk, and delegates from minor players like Greece and Romania. I feel like I know so much more than before I started that even now, less than a week after finishing the book, I'm having trouble straightening out all the details in my head. It's one of those books you need to listen to three times to really get everything, and not always in a good way.

Because it covered everything, it could be difficult to keep track of at times because of all the events that you need to remember over the course of the book. This problem, which is mostly inevitable with historical non fiction that focuses on such a short time period, was made worse by the author's decision to divide the book by issue covered at the conference rather than telling it as a more coherent narrative. I understand that this was done because telling it day-by-day would have been even worse (they were dealing with multiple issues every day), but there should have been some sort of compromise between those two extremes. It had some, though not enough, references to events going on at the same time to help you piece together the context of the timing, but overall it was often confusing, especially since a reference might be to something you haven't listened to yet because it's discussed in a later section. If the format had been at least a little chronological (maybe by month first and then by issues covered that month?), it would have been a lot easier to appreciate the good qualities of the book.

I have listened to several audiobooks about this time period and therefore was familiar with some of the people and a lot of the preceding events (like the armistice agreement and the abdication of the Kaiser), but even with background knowledge this book was at times totally overwhelming. It made a lot of assumptions about what you already knew as a reader and it required very close attention in order to keep track of everything. It's too bad that the book would be inaccessible to someone who doesn't know much about this time period, because the consequences of the peace conference were at times surprising, enlightening, and fascinating and I'm sure a lot of people would find them interesting in a more accessible format. There were a lot of times where I said out loud, alone in the car, "What?! I didn't know that!" - it gave me a new perspective on a lot of things, both historical and modern. There was a lot of good material in there, once you got over the hurdles of too much tiny detail and not enough context for non-enthusiasts.

One other strange thing about the book was the ending. After having been neutral and factual throughout the book, the end was all about the author's point of view that the Versailles Treaty should not be blamed for the Second World War like it often is by historians. This was an interesting point of view that was well-supported by facts I didn't know beforehand, but it felt sort of out of place when the focus of the book was not exclusively - not even primarily - the German treaty.

The narration was good. It was easy to follow and mostly not monotonous, which was good because you needed to stay engaged in the book constantly in order to follow it.

Overall, I would say I expanded my knowledge of this time period and its effects on the present day, but I sort of felt like I was listening to a professor give a lecture series where I was expected to take notes and do more research on my own time. This isn't a book for people who are looking for a first foray into learning about this time period (you need to already know a reasonable amount about the First World War, and to some extent the Second World War, the Russian Revolution, and the Cold War, to fully understand it) - it is definitely not light reading. If you are interested in the subject already, as I am, it's worth listening to - I'm glad I did in spite of the book's flaws. But it takes some concentration and dedication to finishing it to do so because of the jumping around in time and the huge cast of characters. This book was so informative and detailed that it was more like taking a course than reading a history book intended for public consumption - it is not for everyone. For me, it was a four-star book - worth reading in spite of its organizational issues - but I wouldn't recommend it to very many people I know all the same.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful