At a time when the world is contemplating the depletion of non-renewable natural resources, the consumer society is increasingly being called into question. This is nowhere more acutely evident than in France, where since its beginnings in the nineteenth century, the consumer revolution, extending market forces into every area of social and private life, has been perceived as a challenge to core elements in French culture, such as traditional artisan crafts and small businesses serving local communities. Cultural historians and sociologists have charted the increasing commercialisation of everyday life over the twentieth century, but few have paid systematic attention to the crucial testimony provided by the authors of narrative fiction. Consumer Chronicles rectifies this omission by means of close readings of a series of novels, selected for their authentic portrayal of consumer behaviour, and analysed in relation to their social, cultural and historical contexts. Walker's study, offering an imaginative interdisciplinary panorama covering the impact of affluence on French shoppers, shopkeepers and society, provides telling new insights into the history and characteristics of the consumer mentality.
It is a work of impeccable scholarship, and possesses the virtues of ample illustration, detailed demonstration, and the relentless, exhaustive pursuit of a single broad topic.
Consumer Chronicles offers scholars and undergraduates alike fresh purchase not only on the development of consumer culture in modern France, and on literary and theoretical engagements with it, but also on their own practices of critical consumption.
French Studies, vol 66, no 1
Walker’s prose remains clear, readable, even playful. The greatest strength of this book lies in the author’s ability to synthesize vast amounts of information from primary and secondary works in order to tell a coherent story. Works of fiction unfold in time and in tandem with a thoroughly documented history of consumer culture in modern France.
H-France Review Vol. 12, No. 18
Walker’s clear exposition of the progression of his argument at every stage is helpful, if occasionally repetitive. His work is itself a treasure trove of references to literary and historical texts that discuss the evolution and importance of shopping in the modern period. Readers of modern French literature with an eye for consumer economics will undoubtedly get their money’s worth from this volume.
Beth Gerwin, Modern Language Review, Vol. 107, Part 4