They were the children of France's most celebrated men of nineteenth-century letters and science, the celebrity heirs and heiresses of their day. Their lives were the subject of scandal, gossip, and fascination. LÃ©on Daudet was the son of the popular writer Alphonse Daudet. Jean-Baptiste Charcot was the son of the famed neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot, mentor to a young Sigmund Freud. And Jeanne Hugo was the adored granddaughter of the immortal Victor Hugo. As France readied herself for thedawn of a new century, these childhood friends seemed poised for greatness.
InGilded Youth, Kate Cambor paints a portrait of a generation lost in upheaval. While France weathered social unrest, violent crime, the birth of modern psychology, and the dawn of World War I, these three young adults experienced the disorientation of a generation forced to discover that the faith in science and progress that had sustained their fathers had failed them.
With masterful storytelling, Cambor captures the hopes and disillusionments of those who were destined to see the golden world of their childhood disappear—and the universal challenges that emerge as the dreams of youth collide with the realities of experience.
“Narrated with brio and style.” —Miranda Seymour, The New York Times Book Review
“In this dramatic, real-life tale of three intertwined lives, Kate Cambor conveys the dashed hopes not just of families and individuals, but of an entire culture. Jean-Baptiste Charcot, the son of famed neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot (mentor to Sigmund Freud); LÃ©on Daudet, the son of the writer Alphonse Daudet (whose closest friends included Flaubert, Zola, Goncourt and Tolstoy); and Jeanne Hugo, the granddaughter of the writer Victor Hugo were the celebrity brats of France's Belle Ã?poque. None of the three friends had shoulders quite broad enough to carry the legacies of their forebears . . .Gilded Youth is full of glittering things--ideas, salons, dreams--ultimately blinding to the three young people. Paris burns brightly in the background.” —Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times
“As Cambor notes, the problem was primarily one of momentum--the ‘faith in science and progress' that defined the Gilded Age was eroded by the arrival of mechanized combat, psychoanalytic theory and a dizzying rush of experimental art. Born to one era, Charcot, Daudet and Hugo struggled, and failed, to adjust to the mores of the next.” —Michael Shaer, The Washington Post
“[Cambor] succinctly and masterfully offers an illuminating glimpse into belle Ã©poque realities through the experiences of three childhood friends destined to do great things, who later saw the golden world of their childhoods disappear. This fascinating volume is highly recommended to a broad readership in 19th and 20th-century French studies and literature.” —Ali Houissa, Library Journal
“A fascinating snapshot of three uniquely situated individuals who helped to define, and were in turn defined by, this fascinating juncture in European history. ” —Booklist
“This is a Proust lover's idea of a sexy read: the tale of the offspring of three of belle Ã©poque Paris's most celebrated figures - with a hint of glamour, scandal and approaching doom. ” —Sarah F. Gold, Publishers Weekly
“Kate Cambor'sGilded Youth reads like a Balzac novel. The reader is enchanted by young Charcot and by Victor Hugo's granddaughter, and comes to loathe the odious LÃ©on Daudet, archetype of French anti-Semites. This book is at once a marvelous narration and a dark vision of the anxieties of familial influence. ” —Harold Bloom
“Gilded Youth is the indispensable companion to Roger Shattuck's classicThe Banquet Years. Drawn with grace, sympathy, and shining intelligence, the characters in Kate Cambor's group portrait are more than engaging. To know them is to understand how their time- a time of great promise and unsurpassed beauty - gave way to a century of unending destruction.” —Patricia O'Toole, author of The Five of Hearts: An Intimate Portrait of Henry Adams and His Friends, 1880-1918
“Gilded Youth offers a fascinating insight into the long shadows cast by the famous upon their children. The lives of LÃ©on Daudet, Jeanne Hugo, and Jean-Baptiste Charcot are proof that an exceptional heritage can be as much a burden as a blessing. Kate Cambor has written a remarkable book. ” —Amanda Foreman, author of Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire
“Gilded Youth is a mesmerizing account that blends biography and history of the highest order. Cambor combines a scholar's deep knowledge of French society and politics with a novelist's grasp of psychological nuance. The result is a story about how the most urgent dispositions of the human heart can be shaped by history. ” —Christine Stansell, author of American Moderns: Bohemian New York and the Creation of a New Century
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