This is a novel about self-doubt and strength, set in Paris in the 1820s, a city about to explode – the stock exchange seething, the Romantic tide in painting and poetry surging into music and the theater, an impassioned citizenry anticipating the next revolution. It is a city undergoing intense intellectual, philosophical and political upheaval, and there is no more exciting place in the world.
This is the city that beckons to Frederick and Charles Courtland – English brothers of good family and exceptional intellectual capacities and ambition, who are drawn from their sedate world into the tumult of Paris. Frederick, the younger of the two, has been called upon by France’s leading architect to assist in the construction of the Galerie d’Orléans in the gardens of the Palais-Royal – a testament to Frederick’s promise, a brilliant feather in the cap of one so young. Charles – a country parish minister who leaves the church with his faith barely intact and who is in dire need of renewed perspective – follows his brother to Paris. And through a series of brilliantly crafted letters (between the brothers and their father and godfather), diary entries and essays, the inner lives of these two men, as well as the course of their careers and the events of the world around them, are revealed as they unfold over a span of forty years.
New York: Knopf, 1987. Re-issued New York: Norton, 1994. London: Faber and Faber, 1987. Paris: Albin Michel, 1988. Madrid: Alianza, 1988. Milan: Feltrinelli, 1988. Tokyo: Iwanomi Shoten, 1988.