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August 5, 2018



by N@ncy

  • Author: Jean-Claude Berchet (1939)
  • Title:  Chateaubriand
  • Published: 2012
  • Genre: biography
  • Language: French
  • Trivia: Berchet is a François-René Chateaubriand specialist.
  • List Reading Challenges 2018
  • Monthly planning
  • Here is the list of my  French Books.
  • I have included reviews of  books  2017 – 2018.
  • Perhaps you can find a book you’d like to  read!



Strong point: combination of biography and history (start of Fr Revolution as experienced by Chateaubriand…interesting perspective! The entire system of medieval institutions had been destroyed!

Strong point: Berchet also takes time to explain the influence such great men as Malesherbes and Mirabeau had on Chateaubriand. The reader is treated to more than just the biography of Francois-Rene….but many more illustrious Frenchmen.

Travel: America, Chateaubriand traveled to the new world July – December 1791. He was bewitched (evoûté) by the landscape, people and especially the indians.
Chateaubriand: the man….was obsessed by the conviction that happiness is an illusion…elusive and not to be achieved. (pg 196)

Strong point: books like this etch ‘important dates and events’ in my mind more than all the ‘learn by heart’ studying done high-school.
I was never told to  read an ‘extra historical book’  from a reading list to be used in class in addition to our text book! Why? There is so much more to learn that is NOT in the standard school books.

History: There are some good insights about the French Revolution in this book, 17 July 1789: You cannot fool all of the people….all of the time!
Louis XVI after fall of the Bastille proclaimed himself father of his ‘folk’. Unfortunately this ‘folk’ “ne tardera pas à lui couper la tête” !
They were quick to chop off his head!

Reading strategy: Decided to ‘skim’ 115 pages (231-347). We all know after Battle of Thionville (1792) C. was wounded, exiled to England, started writing his books and returned to France 06 May 1800. I’ve kept on ‘skimming’ when necessary.

Berchet goes ‘way overboard with the years C. was in England. Many of his friends (Fontanes)…are included in this section and the death of C’s mother and sister Julie. Time to move on to history and Napoleon!

Structure of book:  50% biography – 25% travel journal (America, England, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Jerusalem, Egypt, Spain) 25% lives of other notables in Chateaubriand’s circle of friends. The book could have been 300 pages shorter.

Marriage: Arranged marriage with Celeste was a catastrophe. Chateaubriand had other love interests: Mme Delphine de Custine and Mme de Noailles.

Weak point: …useless, useless details!  pg 540: the price of ‘La Vallée-aux-Loups’, the loan agreements and a list of furniture on the 1st floor of the building. This is just a waste of my reading time! Berchet: (ch 3) goes off course  explaining Chateaubriand’s brother’s marriage contract!. If you read this book you get not only Francois René…but the entire family and in-laws!


Last thoughts:

  1. This book is NOT for the casual reader…comme moi!
  2. …who just wants to know about Chateaubriand in general terms.
  3. This book is for the serious scholar.
  4. Lesson learned:
  5. I should have just read Chateaubraind’s wikipedia page.
  6. update:
  7. I must wait and  see every day
  8. …what Francois René C. has up his sleeve!
  9. He is NOT my idea of a perfect dinner guest.
  10. His brooding personality would make any soufflé collapse!


Brooding dinner guest…


2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Aug 23 2018

    I’m sorry to hear this one had so much content you felt could have been cut! I also think I learn a lot more from books like this than from history class and I think you ask a good question – why don’t more history classes use books like this? I know I’d enjoy them more if they did 🙂


    • Aug 23 2018

      I’ve learned more history from my own reading than I ever did in school.
      I had an hisotry teacher that did not inspire me….she could have phoned in her lessons!
      It is all up to the individual (child, young adult) to be curious and find more in thier exrta-cirricular reading. That is where the parents are important….guide the young reader to seek outside the classroom text book!
      Thanks for your comments!



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