Books re: France?

Old Oct 13th, 2005, 10:42 PM
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Books re: France?

Going to France in May and I'd like to read some historical novels, biographies, anything you loved that pertains to the areas we'll be visiting.
Where we're going: Paris, Alsace, Burgundy,(Lyon) Rhone area, Provence and Loire. Mostly the eastern side. Not enough time for Normandy, Dordogne, etc. Next time..
Thanks a bunch
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Old Oct 14th, 2005, 12:07 AM
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Welcome to France I can't help you with the books you're looking for but I can tell is that May is one my favourite months, and we had such a nice one this year! cross my fingers for you to get the same weather next year!
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Old Oct 14th, 2005, 03:04 AM
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It may be worth your time to use the search function/browse in this forum for past posts on the subject. It has been posted before and there are extensive lists already available.

I personally loved the France travelogues; my favorite is "The Olive Farm" written by a British theater actress who bought an olive farm near Cannes. Loved it!

Also, anybody into historical fiction must read "The Pillars of the Earth" about the construction of a cathedral in medieval Europe. Wonderful read. I first read this book in 1993 and to this date, I still hear people who have discovered this book and just rave about it.
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Old Oct 14th, 2005, 03:16 AM
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French Spirits : a house, a village, and a love affair in Burgundy by Jeffrey Greene.

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Old Oct 14th, 2005, 04:33 AM
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Seven Ages of Paris by Alistair Horne. This is an informed and amusing story of what made Paris Paris. Great read.

A Home on France by Anne Barry

A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle

Citizens by Simon Schama-history of the French Revolution
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Old Oct 14th, 2005, 04:48 AM
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If you are a dog lover read Peter Mayle's book "A Dog Named Boy". It is set in Provence and a very entertaining read.
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Old Oct 14th, 2005, 04:59 AM
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There are, of course, the classics: Dumas' "Three Musketeers", "Queen Margot" and "Count of Monte Cristo", Victor Hugo's " Hunchback of Notre Dame" and "Les Miserables", Balzac's "Madame Bovary" and so on. For Burgundy, there are Gabriel Chevalier's hilarious "Clochemerle" novels, and for Alsace, the classic Erckmann-Chatrian novel "L'Ami Fritz".

However, you might prefer something more contemporary. Here are a couple of novels by non-French writers which I have recently enjoyed: "Birdsong" by Sebastian Faulks, set in early 20th C France to the end of the First World War, and Iain Pears "The Dream of Scipio" set in Provence in Roman, mediaeval and modern times.

For a humourous and incisive look at France and the French, I throughly recomend "Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't be Wrong" by Jean-Benoît Nadeau and Julie Barlow, two Canadian journalists. If you read French, Benoît's "Les Français Aussi Ont un Accent" is also very good. I also liked Thad Carhart's "The Piano Shop on the Left Bank" for its interesting insights on the French.

Travelogues abound, but I've always like Henry James "A Little Tour of France" written in the 1890's. Henry Adams' "Mont St. Michel and Chartres" is a must if you are visiting either of these sites.

Finally, there is a host of books in the Peter Mayle genre (foreigner moving to small village, quaint neighbours, difficult tradesmen etc etc). Head and shoulders above all of them is Michael Sanders' "From Here you Can't See Paris" about life in a small village in the Lot. Unlike most of the other accounts, Sanders focusses on the people of the village and their lives, and not on himself. Even if you won't be going to that part of France this trip, it's well worth reading.

Enjoy your trip!
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Old Oct 14th, 2005, 06:50 AM
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"Le château de ma mère"de l’auteur Marcel Pagnol.

Don't know if you are reading books in French, but I picked this up last summer and it is a wonderful recollection of memories of Marcel Pagnol's childhood in Provence. It offers a vivid sense of the country life of that region. Well-written and charming.
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Old Oct 14th, 2005, 07:24 AM
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If you read French, you can try the books of Eckmann-Chatrian, written in the 19th century. The locale they use is Alsace, except when their characters are off to the Napoleonic wars, but even then they are Alsatian.
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Old Oct 14th, 2005, 07:25 AM
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Ina Caro's "The Road from the Past: Traveling through History in France" is one of my favorites.

Here's a link to a bibliography we put together for our trip to France in 2002:
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Old Oct 14th, 2005, 07:56 AM
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"The Serpent and the Moon", the story of the affair with Diane dePortiers and Henry II (I think, may have been the IV); versus his wife Catherine deMedici.
"On Rue Tartin" by Susan Loomis
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Old Oct 14th, 2005, 08:28 AM
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Letour you forgot "la gloire de mon père" which is the 1st part of a trilogy and "le temps des secrets" the 3rd part. I don't know the 3rd one but if you like "le Chateau de ma mère" you will like the 1st one! (is that clear? #-o )
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Old Oct 14th, 2005, 08:34 AM
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There's an earlier long thread with many good recommendations--try a search. Good luck!
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Old Oct 14th, 2005, 08:37 AM
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I loved The Magic of Provence. It`s not a novel, but about an american couple who move to Frane. I also liked Almost French, another entertaining story. It`s about a lady who becomes almost french, by marrying one.
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Old Oct 14th, 2005, 08:44 AM
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Here's a broad introduction to France and the French:

Travel tips for US citizens visiting France
The following advisory for American travelers heading for France was compiled from information provided by the US State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency, the US Chamber of Commerce, the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control, and some very expensive spy satellites that the French don't know about. It is intended as a guide for American travelers only.

General Overview
France is a medium-sized foreign country situated in the continent of Europe. It is an important member of the world community, though not nearly as important as it thinks. It is bounded by Germany, Spain, Switzerland and some smaller nations of no particular consequence and with not very good shopping. France is a very old country with many treasures, such as the Louvre and EuroDisney. Among its contributions to western civilization are champagne, Camembert cheese and the guillotine.

Although France likes to think of itself as a modern nation, air conditioning is little used and it is next to impossible to get decent Mexican food. One continuing exasperation for American visitors is that the people willfully persist in speaking French, though many will speak English if shouted at. As in any foreign country, watch your change at all times.

The People
France has a population of 54 million people, most of whom drink and smoke a great deal, drive like lunatics, are dangerously oversexed, and have no concept of standing patiently in line. The French people are in general gloomy, temperamental, proud, arrogant, aloof, and undisciplined; and those are their good points.

Most French citizens are Roman Catholic, though you would hardly guess it from their behavior. Many people are communists, and topless sunbathing is common. Men sometimes have girls' names like Marie, and they kiss each other when they hand out medals.

American travelers are advised to travel in groups and to wear baseball caps and colorful trousers for easier mutual recognition.

In general, France is a safe destination, though travelers are advised that, from time to time, it is invaded by Germany. By tradition, the French surrender more or less at once and, apart from a temporary shortage of Scotch whisky and increased difficulty in getting baseball scores and stock market prices, life for the visitor generally goes on much as before.

A tunnel connecting France to Britain beneath the English Channel has been opened in recent years to make it easier for the Government to flee to London.

France was discovered by Charlemagne in the Dark Ages. Other important Historical figures are Louis XIV, the Huguenots, Joan of Arc, Jacques Cousteau and Charles de Gaulle, who was President for many years and is now an airport.

The French form of government is democratic but noisy. Elections are held more or less continuously, and always result in a run-off. For administrative purposes, the country is divided into regions, departments, districts' municipalities, cantons, communes, villages, cafes, booths, and floor tiles.

Parliament consists of two chambers, the Upper and Lower (though,confusingly, they are both on the ground floor), whose members are either Gaullists or communists, neither of whom is to be trusted, frankly. Parliament's principal preoccupations are setting off atomic bombs in the South Pacific and acting indignant when anyone complains

According to the most current State Department intelligence, the President now is someone named Jacques. Further information is not available at this time.

The French pride themselves on their culture, though it is not easy to see why. All their songs sound the same, and they have hardly ever made a movie that you would want to watch for anything but the nude scenes. And nothing, of course, is more boring than a French novel.

Let's face it, no matter how much garlic you put on it, a snail is just a slug with a shell on its back. Croissants, on the other hand, are excellent, though it is impossible for most Americans to pronounce this word. In general, travelers are advised to stick to cheeseburgers at leading hotels such as Sheraton and Holiday Inn.

France has a large and diversified economy, second only to Germany's in Europe, which is surprising because people hardly work at all. If they are not spending four hours dawdling over lunch, they are on strike and blocking the roads with their trucks and tractors. France's principal exports, in order of importance to the economy, are wine, nuclear weapons, perfume, guided missiles, champagne, high-caliber weaponry, grenade launchers, land mines, tanks, attack aircraft, miscellaneous armaments and cheese.

Public Holidays
France has more holidays than any other nation in the world. Among its 361 national holidays are 197 saints' days, 37 National Liberation Days, 16 Declaration of Republic Days, 54 Return of Charles de Gaulle in Triumph as if he Won the War Single-Handed Days, 18 Napoleon Sent into Exile Days, 17 Napoleon Called Back from Exile Days, and 112 France is Great and the Rest of the World is Rubbish Days. Other important holidays are National Nuclear Bomb Day (January 12), the Feast of St. Brigitte Bardot Day (March 1), and National Guillotine Day (November 12). Bastille Day is July 14. (or as the French would say, "14 July")

Conclusion--France enjoys a rich history, a picturesque and varied landscape, and a temperate climate. In short, it would be a very nice country if it weren't inhabited by French people. The best thing that can be said for it is that it is not Germany.

A Word of Warning--The consular services of the United States government are intended solely for the promotion of the interests of American businesses such as McDonald's, Pizza Hut and the Coca-Cola Corporation. In the event that you are the victim of a crime or serious injury involving at least the loss of a limb, report to the American Embassy between the hours of 5.l5 am and 5.20 am on a Tuesday or Wednesday, and a consular official who is supremely indifferent to your plight will give you a list of qualified dentists or something similarly useless.

Remember, no one ordered you to go abroad.
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Old Oct 14th, 2005, 09:32 AM
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I just finished and really enjoyed " Catherine de Medici" by Leonie Frieda.
Also liked "Almost French" by Sarah Turnbull and Cie La Vie by Suzy Gerstman
and the Cara Black mysteries are fun to read.
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Old Oct 14th, 2005, 09:48 AM
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My favorites that I read in France have already been mentioned, but I'll second the suggestions of Hugo's "Hunchback of Notre Dame" and Dumas "Three Musketeers".

On a lighter note, several stories in David Sedaris' book "Me Talk Pretty One Day" take place in France. He's hysterical, but not for everyone's tastes.
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Old Oct 14th, 2005, 10:39 AM
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viajero2 -
The Olive Farm is written by Carol Drinkwater. She has also written 'The Olive Season: amour, new life and olives too', 'The Olive Harvest: a memoir of life, love and olive oil int eh south of France', and 'A Celebration of Olives'.

Lauricelli -
a good thread that will run and run!
A book that will tear at your heartstrings is 'The Lost King of France' by Deborah Cadbury. It is the tragic tale of Louis XVII, favourite son of Marie Antoinette. He was imprisoned in the Conciergerie and his treatment was appalling. There is much speculation that he survived, but I seem to recall a tiny heart was found and DNA tested, and it belonged to Louis. I see on amazon that Deborah Cadbury has written a follow-up book 'The Lost King of France: How DNA Testing solved the mystery of the murdered son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette'. The first book was absolutely gripping, not just a historical morass to wade through.

I've also enjoyed 'The Queen's Confession' by Victoria Holt. Mary Stewart wrote romantic thrillers, of which 'Thunder on the Right', 'Madam Will You Talk' and 'Nine Coaches Waiting' were set in the south of France. Daphne du Maurier wrote 'The Parasites', which includes a wonderfully evocative vignette of life in Paris between the wars.

And no doubt you've considered 'The da Vinci Code'....

Have fun reading! I'll post again if I think of anything else - I seem to remember an Iris Murdoch set somewhere by a river in France...
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Old Oct 14th, 2005, 11:51 AM
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Salut, coco!
Oui, c'est vrai; il y a trois romans par Pagnol. Je voudrais bien lire les autres parce que je suis pres de la fin! C'est charmante! Merci pour l'information. Je dois utiliser!
Bon weekend!
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Old Oct 14th, 2005, 01:02 PM
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>>There's an earlier long thread with many good recommendations--try a search.<<

Here it is...
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