This is, first of all, a very long book - much longer than the 306 pages would seem to indicate. First of all, the pages are enormous; they are printed in double columns; and packed with information and hints and insights - everything has been thought through carefully by the author; beautiful plates, thoroughly integrated with the text.
This book was 25 years in the making -- apparently, many people had great hopes and expectations about this book during the years that Herbert was working on it. They weren't disappointed, I' sure.
Herbert sets out to prove that a true appreciation of Impressionism requires an understanding of the social and historical background -- which is all presented at a very granular level -- of resorts, cafés, gardens, streets, sporting, leisure, Haussmannization, etc. etc… -- along with a formal analysis of brushwork, compositional structure, and the like. There is no theory a-la-Clark -- but a rich analysis of the categories of embourgeoisement as introduced by contemporaries or near contemporaries, men like Georg Simmel, the Goncourts, and the like -- dealing with the ideas of "detachment", "alienation", the flâneur, the idealization of the freedom from labor that one finds from Puvis to Manet to Monet…
All in all, a fantastic book -- one too rich for me to review properly at this late hour. So let me just say: "you won't be disappointed".