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Ten Great Books set in FRANCE

8th December 2021

France is the latest destination for us to visit in our ‘Great Books set in series…’ Ten Great Books set in France. France, in Western Europe, encompasses medieval cities, alpine villages and Mediterranean beaches. Paris, its capital, is famed for its fashion houses, classical art museums including the Louvre and monuments like the Eiffel Tower. The country is also renowned for its wines and sophisticated cuisine

‘Ce n’est pas la mer à boire’ -‘ It’s not as though you have to drink the sea’. Meaning it’s not a big deal…

Ten Great Books set in FRANCEMadam, Will You Talk? by Mary Stewart

A young woman on a holiday in Provence befriends a lonely boy, and is unwittingly drawn into his family’s intrigues. A cat and mouse chase leads from Avignon to Les Baux to Marseille, as she attempts to unravel the threads of the past which threaten both of them. Although this book was written many years ago, the modern traveler will still recognize many of the descriptions of these places.

Stewart has a wonderful sense of place, and her novels were written in a time where romantic suspense was literate fiction.

France Sketchbooks by Laurie Olin

  • An artist/designer’s intimate and loving sketches and notes from 50 years of visits to France and looking carefully at aspects of life there, both humble and grand
  • Looking carefully and noting in clear sketches what he sees, Olin presents France beyond selfies and tourism. Here one finds travel, observation, and affection for life and places familiar and off the beaten track well recorded
  • This book will appeal to all those who have travelled to France or have the urge to go, as well as to designers of all sorts, for Olin’s eye is equally tuned to interiors as well as the exterior of architecture, to parks as to streets and squares, to household objects and classical monuments
  • Over a hundred drawings are included from Olin’s many sketchbooks along with transcriptions of accompanying comments and notes

For centuries artists and designers have recorded places, people, and life in travel sketchbooks. Over a period of fifty years, Laurie Olin, one of America’s most distinguished landscape architects, has recorded aspects of France: its cities and countryside, streets and cafés, ancient ruins, vineyards, and parks – from humble to grand, things that interested his designer’s eye – taking the time to see things carefully. Paris in its seasons, agriculture in Provence and Bordeaux, trees, dogs, and fountains, all are noted over the years in watercolour or pen and ink.

Originally intended for the pleasure of merely being there as well as self-education, this personal selection from his many sketchbooks is accompanied by transcriptions of notes and observations, along with introductory remarks for the different regions included: Paris, Haute Loire, Provence, Haute Provence, Normandy, Aquitaine, and Entre des Meures.

Ten Great Books set in FRANCEAll That We Have Lost by Suzanne Fortin

2019. When Imogen Wren’s husband dies, she must realise their dream of moving to France on her own. She finds a beautiful abandoned chateau and starts to rebuild her life among its ruins. But she soon notices that the locals won’t come near. A dark web of secrets surrounds the house, and it all seems to centre on the war…

1944. Since the moment German troops stepped foot in her village, the sole aim of Simone Varon’s life has been to avoid them. Until one soldier begins leaving medicine bottles for her sick brother, and she gets to know the man behind the uniform. Then the Resistance comes calling, and she must choose between love and duty – with devastating consequences that will echo through the decades.

As Imogen restores the chateau, she’s determined to uncover the truth – and set to rest the ghosts of the past.

A beautiful and devastating dual timeline novel that spans from occupied France in World War Two, to the war-ravaged chateau in 2019. Perfect for fans of Gill Paul, Lucinda Riley and Lorna Cook.

An Act of Love by Carol Drinkwater

Forced to flee war ravaged Poland, Sara and her parents are offered refuge in a beautiful but dilapidated house in the French Alps. It seems the perfect hideaway, despite haunting traces of the previous occupants who left in haste.

But shadows soon fall over Sara’s blissful summer, and her blossoming romance with local villager Alain. As the Nazis close in, the family is forced to make a harrowing choice that could drive them apart forever, while Sara’s own bid for freedom risks several lives . . .

Will her family make it through the summer together?
And can she hold onto the love she has found with Alain?

By turns poignant and atmospheric, this is the compelling new novel from Sunday Times bestselling author Carol Drinkwater about the power of first love and courage in our darkest hours.

Quite Corners of Paris, Unexpected Hideaways, Secret Courtyards, Hidden Gardens by Jean-Christophe Napais

Quiet Corners of Paris is a beautifully illustrated peek into eighty-one often overlooked, always beautiful, locales: hidden villas, winding lanes, little-known 19th-century passages, serene gardens, and cobblestone courtyards. Some of the places have breathtaking views, others are filled with historic and architectural details, from stone archways, garden follies, boxwood mazes, ornamental statuary, stained glass, and Renaissance fountains….

Paris Echo by Sebastian Faulks

Here is Paris as you have never seen it before – a city in which every building seems to hold the echo of an unacknowledged past, the shadows of Vichy and Algeria.

American postdoctoral researcher Hannah and runaway Moroccan teenager Tariq have little in common, yet both are susceptible to the daylight ghosts of Paris. Hannah listens to the extraordinary witness of women who were present under the German Occupation; in her desire to understand their lives, and through them her own, she finds a city bursting with clues and connections. Out in the migrant suburbs, Tariq is searching for a mother he barely knew. For him in his innocence, each boulevard, Métro station and street corner is a source of surprise.

In this urgent and deeply moving novel, Faulks deals with questions of empire, grievance and identity. With great originality and a dark humour, Paris Echo asks how much we really need to know if we are to live a valuable life.

Second Harvest by Jean Giono

Panturle lives in the nearly deserted village of Aubignane, in the Provencal uplands. That autumn, Gaubert, the blacksmith, “a little man all mustache, ” had left; and before the winter was out, the well-sinker’s widow had left as well. Then only Panturle remained, a man made morose almost to the point of madness by his solitude. He gave up planting and lived off what he could catch. Then out of the blue a woman arrived, someone to live for, someone to till the soil and plant new seed for. Even a village can be raised from the dead.

Second Harvest is steeped in the poetry of the countryside and the seasons. Readers of The Man Who Planted Trees do not need to ask why Jean Giono remains one of the most enduring French storytellers of this century

Ten Great Books set in FRANCEA Very French Wedding by Maeve Haran

For all those who imagine escaping to a château and living the dream . . . to find that even dreams can have their complications.

Steph, Jo and Meredith have been friends since school. Their lives have all taken very different paths across the years, but when Meredith buys a romantic château in an idyllic village in the Dordogne she finds she can’t do it alone – so who better to enlist for help than her two old friends? Together they hope to bring the château back to life and create the most romantic wedding venue in France.

And it seems that the nearby village of Bratenac has much more to offer than sun, wine and delicious French food when a handsome chef and his equally charming son, a vigneron from New Zealand, not to mention the local ladies’ luncheon club and a British bulldog named Nelly all join the party.

Friends and lovers, old and new, come together and fall apart in deepest France, culminating in a very special château wedding. Funny, uplifting and poignant, this is Maeve Haran, bestselling author of The Greek Holiday, at her very best.

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

On a beautifully restored barge on the Seine, Jean Perdu runs a bookshop; or rather a ‘literary apothecary’, for this bookseller possesses a rare gift for sensing which books will soothe the troubled souls of his customers.

The only person he is unable to cure, it seems, is himself. He has nursed a broken heart ever since the night, twenty-one years ago, when the love of his life fled Paris, leaving behind a handwritten letter that he has never dared read. His memories and his love have been gathering dust – until now. The arrival of an enigmatic new neighbour in his eccentric apartment building on Rue Montagnard inspires Jean to unlock his heart, unmoor the floating bookshop and set off for Provence, in search of the past and his beloved.

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

A beautiful, stunningly ambitious novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II, from the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr.

When Marie Laure goes blind, aged six, her father builds her a model of their Paris neighborhood, so she can memorize it with her fingers and then navigate the real streets. But when the Germans occupy Paris, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where Marie-Laure’s agoraphobic great uncle lives in a tall, narrow house by the sea wall.

In another world in Germany, an orphan boy, Werner, is enchanted by a crude radio. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, a talent ultimately makes him a highly specialized tracker of the Resistance. Werner travels through the heart of Hitler Youth to the far-flung outskirts of Russia, and finally into Saint-Malo, where his path converges with Marie-Laure.

Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. Ten years in the writing, ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE is his most ambitious and dazzling work.

WE hope you enjoy our selection of French books. With close on 1,000 on the TripFiction site, it was by no means easy to cut them down to just 10! If we have missed any of your favourites, just let us now in the Comments below.

Tony for the TripFiction team

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  1. User: Stella Fitzhugh

    Posted on: 06/01/2022 at 1:35 pm

    Wow! How nice! Except there’s a box on the Amazon page saying “this item can’t be redeemed in your location”. I give up. But you are so thoughtful!


    1 Comment

    • User: tripfiction

      Posted on: 06/01/2022 at 6:18 pm

      Hi Stella, really sorry about this – but I guess we tried! There is no getting round Amazon rules (imposed, I suspect, for legal reasons of copyright or distribution agreements).


  2. User: Stella Fitzhugh

    Posted on: 05/01/2022 at 1:41 am

    A Very French Wedding isn’t on Kindle!



    • User: Stella Fitzhugh

      Posted on: 05/01/2022 at 6:50 pm

      I’m in Texas, USA. Amazon US doesn’t offer it in Kindle, Amazon UK says Kindle version is not available for my location. Bummer.


      1 Comment

      • User: tripfiction

        Posted on: 06/01/2022 at 12:48 pm

        Hi Stella, I ordered a Kindle copy through Amazon UK to be delivered to your email address. It seems to have been accepted, so fingers crossed. Our late Christmas present to you if it works! Let me know…


    • User: Stella Fitzhugh

      Posted on: 05/01/2022 at 4:30 pm

      I tried the Amazon UK site and it said
      it couldn’t sell the Kindle version to my location.


      1 Comment

      • User: tripfiction

        Posted on: 05/01/2022 at 6:17 pm

        Hi, can you tell me your location and I’ll check further?


    • User: tripfiction

      Posted on: 05/01/2022 at 10:00 am

      Umm, this is very strange. According to Amazon UK, A Very french Wedding is available in three formats – paperback, kindle, and audio! I’ll try and check some more…


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