Middle-brow novels set in France?

(55 Posts)
Lovage Thu 22-May-14 21:18:33

I'm off to France for my hols and I'd love to read some novels set in France while I'm there. Not high-brow stuff, because I just know I won't fancy it while I'm away. So no Zola or Victor Hugo, thanks. I like chick lit when I'm on holiday, as well as it's reasonably well-written and not too formulaic. But something a bit more challenging than that kind of thing would also be fine too.

Can anyone recommend anything?

duchesse Thu 22-May-14 21:23:07

Try anything by Joanne Harris- Chocolat, Five Quarters of an Orange, The Islanders.

There is another book I'm trying to remember, about a family of artists in the 1930s-1950s (father and son afair who end up with the same woman) but I cannot for the life of me remember what it's called. Will think on.

SanityClause Thu 22-May-14 21:25:30

Pure by Andrew Miller is about the exhumation of the churchyard of a church in Paris. It sounds a bit grim, put like that, but it's a quirky novel with an historical setting, and I really enjoyed it.

clearsommespace Thu 22-May-14 21:26:46

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulkes

traviata Thu 22-May-14 21:27:22

'Suite Francaise' by Irene Nemirovsky.

clearsommespace Thu 22-May-14 21:27:53

The Swimming Pool Season by Rose Tremain (not one of her best IMO)

havewinewilltravel Thu 22-May-14 21:28:23

The Languedoc Trilogy - Labyrinth, Sepulchre and Citadel - by Kate Mosse. Set in the south of France and history, romance, time-slip - I loved them!

Helpys Thu 22-May-14 21:28:46

Zola is not highbrow! They're real potboilers. Really, try one! There are loads of them too so if you like them you have years of reading to look forward to.
Thérèse Raquin or Nana are I think quite short if you d

clearsommespace Thu 22-May-14 21:29:51

The Fairy Gunmother by Pennac (not sure how this translates, it's good fun in the original)

Helpys Thu 22-May-14 21:31:00

Sorry- they're quite short if you're not convinced.
Françoise Sagan also.

Labyrinth, Sepulchre and Citadel by Kate Mosse (especially Labyrinth if you are going anywhere near Carcassonne); the Angelique novels by Anne Golon; An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris (about the Dreyfus affair)

Bonnes vacances!

LovelyMarchHare Thu 22-May-14 21:32:38

Perfume? Is that low brow?

clearsommespace Thu 22-May-14 21:37:51

Ooh didn't realise Labyrinth was part of a trilogy!

Anna Gavalda ' Hunting and Gathering'

'Trespass' another one by Rose Tremain

fruitpastille Thu 22-May-14 21:42:08

Labyrinth is good. I wasn't keen on Sepulchre though.

SanityClause Thu 22-May-14 21:43:32

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain is about Ernest Hemmingway and his first wife Hadley Richardson, and their life in jazz age Paris.

Any of Sebatian Faulkes novels would fit the bill. The Girl at the Lion D'Or is quite short, but good. Birdsong has already been recommended, and Charlotte Grey is also worth a read.

duchesse Thu 22-May-14 21:44:52

There a good catalogue here what I have found while trying to identify the book I read 30+ years ago. Gah! Can't remember what it was called. I was 12 or 13 when I read it so there's a chance it was more low-brow than middle-. Agree about Zola which I also read at 12/13- not especially difficult but maybe not the feel-good holiday escapism you're after.

duchesse Thu 22-May-14 21:46:07

PS: I hated Labyrinth. If I'd gone on holiday with only what I now find out is a trilogy, I'd have been really upset. I thought it was tripe. Similar to the Da Vinci code frankly (which is also set in France in parts).

Helpys Thu 22-May-14 21:48:57

No he's not feel- good I guess.
(I agree about Labyrinth)

duchesse Thu 22-May-14 22:08:04

*Mistral's Daughter*! I knew it was tripe. Solid gold tripe. Romping good read as I remember.

Lovage Thu 22-May-14 22:09:23

Wow, thanks for all the speedy replies - great!

Lots of things people mentioned I've already read and enjoyed, which shows you're on the right lines! I've read all of the French-set Joanna Harris ones (and a UK one, that I also enjoyed) and lots of Sebastian Faulkes and Rose Tremain - will work out which I haven't though thanks. Bizarrely I have also read 'Pure' which, yes, was great.

I have read Labyrinth and hated it, (yes, duchesse, just like the Da Vinci code! Also Cathars was my special subject at uni so I got very cross about all the misrepresentation of the historical period) so won't go for more of those, thanks.

Thank you for the encouragement to try Zola. I will! And Sagan. And the others.

Thanks particularly for the list of books set in France, duchesse. (Oops should have googled for that myself first. But OTOH, always nice to have a recommendation from Mumsnet).

Beastofburden Thu 22-May-14 22:10:17

Simenons Maigret detective novels.

MiddleAgeMiddleEngland Fri 23-May-14 12:48:20

I agree that Zola isn't highbrow, it's quite low brow in places!

What about one of Collette's novels for something a bit different?

Helpys Fri 23-May-14 13:09:59

Zola is quite amazing and there are so many! I have never read a book as traumatic and haunting as 'La Terre'; I'm on a one woman mission to spread the word.

eastfield10 Fri 23-May-14 15:16:04

I recently finished The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson. That's set in Provence.

Halsall Fri 23-May-14 15:19:47

I'd recommend Le mariage by Diane Johnson....she's American, has lived in France for years, and it's a 'comedy of manners' about the planning of a Franco-American marriage.......I found it very well-written and very funny in a subtle way. Not chick-lit but not too heavy to plough through.

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