Tobias Churton’s Occult Paris: The Lost Magic of The Belle Epoque is an incredibly detailed and intimate portrait of the mystical community that emerged in France in the late 19th century and flourished into the early 20th century. Churton opens up a literary portal into the past, allowing the reader to vicariously walk the streets of Paris and see the often unseen world of the occult that once thrived in Europe.
Churton’s writing is rich and comprehensive, but it is also at times a bit dense and inaccessible. There are several times when he goes into an aside that, unless one is already well-versed in the period, may seem either irrelevant to the greater point or make no sense to the reader at all. Despite the occult subject matter, this book is first and foremost an academic history discussion. This means casual readers will need to struggle through the “highbrow” academia to get to the meat of the book.
For those interested in the history of occult movements, however, the struggle is worth it. Churton treats the subject matter as a serious contribution to the culture of Paris, not as the sideshow some others have portrayed it to be. Occult Paris presents a unique perspective into the time period and the place of the occult in the development of several artistic movements.
Reviewer note: I received an advanced review copy of this title. Due to formatting issues in the ARC, some portions of the book were difficult to read due to large FOR REVIEW ONLY text throughout the book. Because I was reviewing an ARC, footnotes and captions were not always formatted properly within the digital file. I am assuming these issues were resolved in the final book released to the public.