Paperbacks: The Discovery Of France, by Graham Robb

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The Independent Culture

Robb, as drily witty as he is erudite, begins his sparkling account of the invention of France with a patchwork portrait of the pre-1789 country, home to a thousand rival tribes.

Part two shows how politics, transport and tourism tried to forge this anarchic jumble into a nation, from Alsace to Provence. Robb cycled 14,000 miles to bring his learning to life, which this book blissfully does.