The Boy and I are big readers. One of my ambitions for our holiday was to spend as much time hanging around in parks and cafes reading, writing and watching the world go by. Since the weather (up until yesterday- when it was so beautiful!) has been pretty bad the whole time we've been here, this has involved quite a few cafes, espressos, cafe lattes and carafes of red wine! Since we've been doing so much reading, we thought it'd be fun to put together a Parisian themed reading list of some of our favourite novels and essays for your enjoyment!
Found in the attic by the author's children, this is a masterpiece. Set in France during the German occupation during the Second World War, it's a stunning rumination on change, the fragility of life. Nemirovsky was herself arrested, deported and ultimately killed because of her Jewish heritage before she could complete the novel.
Pure, by Andrew Miller
This won the 2011 Costa prize and is one of the books I've been reading here. Set in Paris in 1785, it follows Jean-Baptise Baratte, an engineer in charge of demolishing les Innocents, the largest cemetery in the city. It's something of a black comedy, given its slightly gruesome topic! Jean-Baptiste repeatedly questions his sense of self and identity over the course of the book, and it makes for a beautiful rumination about our understanding and comprehension of the world around us. Definitely worth a read, particularly if you're a fan of historical fiction.
A Place of Greater Safety, by Hillary Mantel
OK,so I'm outing myself as a bit of a history geek here. Well, my first degree is in the subject! This is a huge and absorbing novel following some of the key figures in the French Revolution through their pre-revolutionary days and into the revolution itself. If you've ever read any Mantel before, you'll know how well she nails the portraits of historical figures, and particularly in turning very unpopular characters in the historical imagination into real people with multidimensional personalities.
Cousin Bette, by Balzac
A very unhappy spinster moves in with her extended family and plots their destruction. The novel forms part of Balzac's 91 book series, The Human Comedy, and is one of my all-time favourite books through its examination of virtue and vice in a familial setting. It is sometimes criticised for being melodramatic in parts, but since I love melodrama in my books, I definitely don't see this as a bad thing!
The Second Sex, by Simone de Beauvoir
I completely recommend this as a seiminal work in second-wave feminism as an inspiring text in itself and as a very interesting insight into the history of feminism. The most often found translation and in fact until recently, the only translation, is pretty poor as it was rushed out after the death of de Beauvoir. But a new, reportedly much more readable version has just been published.
Do you like reading books set in the place you're visiting on holiday? Do you have any other favourite Parisian novels? I love recommendations for future reading!
p.s. Although all links click through to Amazon, I completely encourage you to support your local independent bookstore!