Memoir set mainly in Verona
Ten Great Books set in BRITTANY
18th August 2021
Brittany is the latest location for us to visit in our Great Books series. Ten Great Books set in Brittany. It is France’s north western region, a hilly peninsula extending out toward the Atlantic Ocean. Its lengthy, rugged coastline is dotted with beach resorts such as chic Dinard and walled Saint-Malo, built on rock in the English Channel.
‘Inside a well-nourished body, the soul remains longer’ – Brittany proverb
Her Mother’s Secret by Rosanna Ley
For many years Colette has avoided returning to her homeland – the magical island of Belle-Île-en-Mer in Southern Brittany – afraid to confront the painful memories she left behind. She is living on the Cornish coast when she hears about her mother Thea’s failing health and realises that the time has come for her to go home. But can Colette ever forgive Thea for what she has done?
Despite Colette’s wariness, romantic Belle-Île still fascinates her. She takes on the running of her mother’s flower shop and makes friends with Élodie from the Old Lighthouse where Thea once worked as a nanny and with the enigmatic Étienne who shares Colette’s mixed feelings about the island. As Thea opens up to her for the first time, Colette finds herself softening and being drawn back into the landscape of her past. But can Belle-Île also be a part of her future?
The ghosts of that past still linger. What happened all those years ago and how did it cause the rift between mother and daughter? It becomes clear that the beauty of Belle-Île hides a devastating family secret – one that Colette is determined to unravel at any cost.
Death in Pont-Aven by Jean-Luc Bannalec
A strange murder in an idyllic French seaside village, a major family tragedy, and a puzzling secret await Commissioner Dupin in this captivating whodunit thriller.
At the Central Hotel in Pont Aven, Brittany, 91-year-old manager Pierre-Louis Pennec is found murdered. Police commissioner George Dupin and his team takes on the investigation and narrow the list of suspects down to five people, including the manager of a rival hotel, a longtime friend of the victim, and a wealthy art historian. Further incidents–first a break-in, then another mysterious death–muddy the waters yet more.
As Commissioner Dupin delves further and further into the lives of the victim and the suspects, he uncovers a web of secrecy and criminality that belies the village’s idyllic image.
A surprise hit in its original German, it is a book so atmospheric readers will immediately want to wander through the village’s narrow alleyways, breathe in the Atlantic air, and smile at the Breton peculiarities. Spellbinding, subtle, and smart, this crime novel is peppered with cryptic humour and surprising twists.
The Mystery of Henri Pick by David Foenkinos
In the small town of Crozon in Brittany, a library houses manuscripts that were rejected for publication: the faded dreams of aspiring writers. Visiting while on holiday, young editor Delphine Despero is thrilled to discover a novel so powerful that she feels compelled to bring it back to Paris to publish it.
The book is a sensation, prompting fevered interest in the identity of its author – apparently one Henri Pick, a now-deceased pizza chef from Crozon. Sceptics cry that the whole thing is a hoax: how could this man have written such a masterpiece? An obstinate journalist, Jean-Michel Rouche, heads to Brittany to investigate.
By turns farcical and moving, The Mystery of Henri Pick is a fast-paced comic mystery enriched by a deep love of books – and of the authors who write them
I’ll Never Be French (no matter what I do) by Mark Greenside
Tired of Provence in books, cuisine, and tablecloths? Exhausted from your armchair travels to Paris? Despairing of ever finding a place that speaks to you beyond reason? You are ripe for a journey to Brittany, where author Mark Greenside reluctantly travels, eats of the crêpes, and finds a second life.
When Mark Greenside — a native New Yorker living in California, doubting (not-as-trusting-as Thomas, downwardly mobile, political lefty, writer, and lifelong skeptic — is dragged by his girlfriend to a tiny Celtic village in Brittany at the westernmost edge of France, in Finistère, “the end of the world,” his life begins to change.
In a playful, headlong style, and with enormous affection for the Bretons, Greenside tells how he makes a life for himself in a country where he doesn’t speak the language or know how things are done. Against his personal inclinations and better judgments, he places his trust in the villagers he encounters — neighbors, workers, acquaintances — and is consistently won over and surprised as he manages and survives day-to-day trials: from opening a bank account and buying a house to removing a beehive from the chimney — in other words, learning the cultural ropes, living with neighbours, and making new friends.
Coastliners by Joanne Harris
On the tiny Breton island of Le Devin, life has remained almost unchanged for over a hundred years. For generations, two rival communities have fought for control of the island’s only beach.
When Mado returns home ot her village after a ten-year absence, she finds it threatened, both by the tides and by a local entrepreneur. Worse, the community is suffering from an incurable loss of hope. Taking up the fight to transform the dying village, Mado must confront past tragedies, including the terrible secret that still haunts her father.
Legends and Romances of Brittany by Lewis Spence
Noted folklorist’s rich compilation of stories includes fairies, sprites and demons, tales of the black arts, Arthurian romances, Breton lays of Marie de France, stories of the saints of Brittany and more. Also, background on the land, people, costumes, and customs. 36 atmospheric illustrations by W. Otway Cannell.
Losing the Light by Andrea Dunlop
A smart, obsessive debut novel about a young woman studying abroad who becomes caught up in a seductive French world and a complex web of love and lust. When thirty-year-old Brooke Thompson unexpectedly runs into a man from her past, she s plunged headlong into memories she s long tried to forget about the year she spent in France following a disastrous affair with a professor. As a newly arrived exchange student in the picturesque city of Nantes, young Brooke develops a deep and complicated friendship with Sophie, a fellow American and stunning blonde, whose golden girl facade hides a precarious emotional fragility. Sophie and Brooke soon become inseparable and find themselves intoxicated by their new surroundings and each other. But their lives are forever changed when they meet a sly, stylish French student, Veronique, and her impossibly sexy older cousin, Alex. The cousins draw Sophie and Brooke into an irresistible world of art, money, decadence, and ultimately, a disastrous love triangle that consumes them both. And of the two of them, only one will make it home.
On the Line by Joseph Ponthus
Unable to find work in his field, Joseph Ponthus enlists with a temp agency and starts to pick up casual shifts in the fish processing plants and abattoirs of Brittany. Day after day he records with infinite precision the nature of work on the production line: the noise, the weariness, the dreams stolen by the repetitive nature of exhausting rituals and physical suffering. But he finds solace in a life previously lived.
Shelling prawns, he dreams of Alexandre Dumas. Pushing cattle carcasses, he recalls Apollinaire. And, in the grace of the blank spaces created by his insistent return to a new line of text – mirroring his continued return to the production line – we discover the woman he loves, the happiness of a Sunday, Pok Pok the dog, the smell of the sea.
In this celebrated French bestseller, translated by Stephanie Smee, Ponthus captures the mundane, the beautiful and the strange, writing with an elegance and humour that sit in poignant contrast with the blood and sweat of the factory floor. On the Line is a poet’s ode to manual labour, and to the human spirit that makes it bearable.
The Forgotten Life of Arthur Pettinger by Suzanne Fortin
Arthur Pettinger’s memory isn’t what it used to be. He can’t always remember the names of his grandchildren, where he lives or which way round his slippers go. He does remember Maryse though, a woman he hasn’t seen for decades, but whose face he will never forget.
When Arthur’s granddaughter, Maddy moves in along with her daughter Esther, it’s her first step towards pulling her life back together. But when Esther makes a video with Arthur, the hunt for the mysterious Maryse goes viral.
There’s only one person who can help Maddy track down this woman – the one that got away, Joe. Their quest takes them to France, and into the heart of the French Resistance.
The Little French Bistro by Nina George
Marianne is stuck in a loveless, unhappy marriage. After forty-one years, she has reached her limit, and one evening in Paris she decides to take action. Following a dramatic moment on the banks of the Seine, Marianne leaves her life behind and sets out for the coast of Brittany, also known as “the end of the world.”
Here she meets a cast of colorful and unforgettable locals who surprise her with their warm welcome, and the natural ease they all seem to have, taking pleasure in life’s small moments. And, as the parts of herself she had long forgotten return to her in this new world, Marianne learns it’s never too late to begin the search for what life should have been all along.
With all the buoyant charm that made The Little Paris Bookshop a beloved bestseller, The Little French Bistro is a tale of second chances and a delightful embrace of the joys of life in France.
Any books you would like to add? Please let us know in the Comments below.
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