Are you into reading novels set in France as much as I am? Most French teachers are Francophiles – I mean, how can you devote your life to teaching a language if you don’t love the country that produced it? But many French teachers are also workaholics, always looking for some new, cool, fun thing to use in our classes. Sometimes we need to put down the “French teacher” beret and take a little time to relax.
I love to read, and in the past year I’ve read a few novels set in France. It’s the perfect mix of a relaxing read, but also a little bit of je ne sais quoi to keep the Francophile in me happy. Here are some of my favorites: While the links are all to Amazon, I was able to find all of these novels set in France at my library in digital versions – so please, check at your local library first.
World War 2 Novels set in France
The Paris Dressmaker – this one takes place during the Nazi occupation of France. A dressmaker tries to make it through the war protecting not only herself and her family, but priceless artworks that the Nazis are cataloging in order to loot. A Chanel dress shows up one day and she realizes that it is a very special dress with connections to the resistance. Can she continue to walk the fine line of being an unwilling employee of the Nazis without betraying her beliefs and the resistance?
Lost Girls of Paris – Another World War 2 novel! A woman in New York finds an abandoned suitcase in a train station. Opening it to find out who the owner is, she discovers information that leads her on a hunt for information about a group of women. They are just names on a list – but what did they have in common? Did any of them survive the war? Eventually, she learns that they were all part of a very highly classified program of secret agents sent to France to spy on the Nazis. She learns about who they were and what they accomplished
French Revolution Era Novels set in France
Ribbons of Scarlet – A very interesting collection of vignettes from different women during the Revolutionary era. A nice combination of stories that include characters from all of the different parts of society. Many of their lives cross at some point. While the women may not have an official role in the politics of the country, each one does have some sort of power and control behind the scenes.
Secret of the Chateau – A group of British retirees purchase a castle in France with plans to renovate it. The story switches between present day and the Revolutionary era and tells the story of the aristocratic family that lived in the castle during that era. The castle holds the keys to a mystery – the disappearance of the wife of the castle’s owner. Was she murdered by her husband, or did she disappear in the chaos of the revolution? This is one of the more lighthearted novels set in France – it’s more contemporary with only a few flashbacks to a more violent time.
Little – This one was a little bit odd, with a very quirky subject. Little is the apprentice to a man who makes death masks. She learns how to make the masks herself and becomes quite good at it. Eventually she is sent away to be part of the court, where she makes friends with the royal family. During the revolution, she is able to make MANY death masks – everyone wants to see the heads of the former elite, including some of Little’s previous friends. Eventually, she leaves France and sets up shop in England – where she opens up a museum featuring wax replications of famous people. Loosely based on the life of Madame Tussaud, this one is a little bit weird but 100% enjoyable.
Other time period novels set in France
Pope Joan – A novel of historical fiction – very EARLY historical fiction! There are many books about later eras, but this one is about the 9th century so a bit earlier than usual. Joan is a young girl who is smart and loves to learn. Her brother isn’t much for book learning, but because he is a boy, he is allowed to pursue an education. Joan manages to find a way to follow her studies as well, but she is forced to deny her gender to do so. How far will she take it? Pretty far, as the title of the book shows! I really enjoyed this book, as it was a different historical period than many of the others on this list.
I hope you are able to enjoy one or more of these novels set in France – and keep an eye out for updates, as I’ll soon be adding more to my list in a new post!
Update: Here are some more novels set in France that I read over the summer.