As you know we love to highlight books set in Paris on this blog, but today we thought we’d find out what some of the wonderful bloggers in France recommend as THEIR favorite reads. These are people who live and breath French life – so when they suggest a good book, we listen!
Now, you would think coming up with a favorite novel would be easy – but not for Doni from Girls Guide to Paris who says she has so many favourites it was almost impossible to choose.
Eventually she settled on The Razor’s Edge by Somerset Maugham.
“While it doesn’t ooze Paris or France the way some other books may, it is beautifully written and captures a very particular time and a society that largely doesn’t exist anymore. And since reading it, I always feel quite smart when I have a coupe de Champagne at the Café de la Paix near the Opéra Garnier,” Doni says.
Doni couldn’t help also sneaking in a non-fiction book as well — Time Was Soft There by Jeremy Mercer, a book about his bohemian experience living and writing at Doni’s favourite bookshop in the world, Shakespeare and Co.
Shakespeare and Co. is a delicious bookshop – you really don’t want to go to Paris without dropping in!
Martina from Mad About Paris says there is one book you cannot visit Paris without….and that’s Dora Bruder by Patrick Modiano. But she warns you will need to be prepared to enter a world of melancholy.
“Modiano is obsessed with one subject: disappearance,” Martina says.
“In all of his books he’s searching for traces of the past. Not any past, but the time when Paris was under German occupation. All his books are a travel through time. Often the starting point is a small fact, something he found in the archives, in old newspapers, and even old telephone directories.
In this case it was 1988 when Modiano found this announcement in a 1941 newspaper reporting that a 15-year old girl, Dora Bruder, was missing: “oval face, grey-brown eyes, wine-coloured jumper, dark blue skirt and hat, and brown shoes. Contact Monsieur and Madame Bruder, 41, Boulevard Ornano for any relevant information.
For more than a decade Modiano was obsessed with collecting any possible information about Bruder, only to discover she had been deported to Auschwitz. This book is his reconstruction of her life.
For people visiting the France, Dora Bruder is an opportunity to discover and immerse yourself in a Paris which has now disappeared.”
It’s a dark choice as well from Kristin Espinasse from French Word-A-Day.
Perfume: the Story of a Murderer is set in Paris, but also has scenes in Grasse, the perfume capital of France.
“The writer, Patrick Suskind, is amazing at description: the scenes of Paris and of Grasse are so vivid. It is a wickedly evil book… but the writing is so engrossing that it is difficult to put down as one follows, with amazement, the megalomaniac main character, who is a scent genius.”
Kristin and I agree you either love or hate Perfume, but there is only one way to find out which category you fall into, and that’s to give it a go!
“It’s a memoir about an American man who lived in Paris as a child and learns how to play the piano,” Richard says.
“He is traumatized by his performance at a recital and vows never to play again. He moves to Paris from the U. S. as a grown man with his wife and young son. On his way to taking his son to school everyday, he stumbles on a piano repair shop and befriends the owner. What later ensues is him buying a piano and getting in touch again with his passion for the piano and overcoming his childhood fear. There’s a wonderful romanticism about his take on Paris and the Parisians and the story is very moving. Also his description of the Left Bank and his neighbourhood and the interesting & warm people he meets is so enticing that it makes you want to move here. It’s a rich and rewarding true tale and a most inspiring ex-pat memoir.”
Ah – a renewal of passion in Paris – how can we resist!
And something quite a bit different from Lindsey of Lost in Cheeseland, whose favourite book set in Paris was actually written for children. It was published in 1953 and presents a thorough history of the city through vibrant illustrations.
“Miroslav Sasek offers the reader a visual tour of Parisian life – from its monuments, transportation system, and parks to its cafés and evens its animals,” says Lindsey.
“This Is Paris is part of a larger collection of “This Is…” city books which includes London, Rome, Venice, New York and San Francisco and although it was written for children, the cultural benefit for adults is just as significant. All of the facts have been updated in recent editions to account for modifications to urban planning and historical sites. Perhaps what is most appealing about the book is how relevant it remains today, vintage aesthetic and all! I offered the book to my young brother this year, it makes a great educational souvenir. “
So there you have it…a few suggestions from the experts. Thanks guys, you have given us some real treats to explore.
So how about you? Why not give yourself a little Paris time….and order yourself a literary trip to the French capital….I think I’m going to start at the top with The Razor’s Edge and work my way down…
And if you’ve read any of these recommendations, we’d love to hear what you think in the comments. Do our bloggers know their stuff?