The French navy built some of the most interesting cruisers of the inter-war period, with many of the innovations adopted in an attempt to match the performance of Italian cruisers that were often much larger than the contemporary naval treaties allowed. As a result the French were forced to make some difficult decisions and the resulting ships had some unusual features (although the search for weight savings didn't stop the designers from installing six separate galleys in some of the ships!).
This book is organised somewhat differently to other similar tomes. In most cases the book is organised around individual ships or classes, generally with each chapter starting with the design process, then construction, modification and finally service record. Here the design, building and modification section is split off and dealt with first, with no mention of the service records. This makes the first part of the book a little dry in places, but pays off in the second part. The French navy had a more complex time during the Second World War than most of its allies or rivals, so it makes more sense to deal with this period by period rather than ship by ship (first in alliance with the Royal Navy, then the Vichy and Free French period, before after the German occupation of southern France the remaining ships were either scuttled or joined the Allied cause, in many cases getting a refit in the United States. Many of the cruisers operated together in a small number of squadrons, so it makes far more sense to deal with their operations in one go rather than repeating the same material several times (the same approach wouldn't work as well for the US or British navies, with larger numbers of cruisers and more frequent changes of assignment).
The technical chapters include some very useful plans, showing both the layout of the ships and the location of particular features. This includes a series of cross sections along the length of the ships, side plans and detailed plans of the superstructures. These help make sense of the layout of the ships, and also demonstrate just how complex warships had become by this period.
This is a welcome addition to the literature on naval development during the interwar period, and provides a different view of the way in which the naval treaties and international events affected the design of warships.
Part I: Technical Section
1 - The Duguay-Trouin Class
2 - Duguesne and Tourville
3 - The Suffren Class
4 - Pluton, Jeanne d'Arc and Emile Bertin
5 - Algérie
6 - The La Galissonnière Class
7 - The De Grasse Class
8 - The C5 and Saint LouisDesigns
Part II: Historical Section
9 - The Period 1929-1939
10 - The Period 1939-1943
11 - The Period 1943-1945
12 - The Period 1945-1956
Author: John Jordan & Jean Moulin