The Short Reign of Pippin IV

John Steinbeck

Read December 2005

Half the fun in this book is its premise. It is sometime after WW II, the French are finding it difficult to agree on a leader. Once everyone else has grown hoarse, the Royalist speaks up. Support comes from unexpected quarters: the Communists decide they do better under monarchies than under democracies. And so on. And suddenly France finds itself a monarchy.

Steinbeck's light touch, relaxed prose and entertaining development make this a pleasure to read. Only at the end, when Pippin addresses parliament, does Steinbeck get bogged down, turning the book into a platform for Steinbeck's social policy. This has all the grace of Chaplin's speech at the end of Great Dictator, i.e., none at all. But the rest of this entertaining book makes up for this glitch.

Thanks to BJ Pryor for recommending this book.