The best books set in France with themes to match

Who am I?

I’m fascinated by these themes – love, France, mystery, women’s lives, war, and peace. My parents took me to France when I was 12 and I’ve spent years there in between and go back whenever I can. I started reading in French when sent to be an au pair in Switzerland when I was 17. My own novel, The Lost Love Letters Of Henri Fournier was absorbing to write as it contains all of the above. I found an unpublished novel of Fournier’s in a village in rural France a few years ago and decided I had to write about him and his lover, Pauline, who was a famous French actress. 


I wrote...

The Lost Love Letters of Henri Fournier

By Rosalind Brackenbury,

Book cover of The Lost Love Letters of Henri Fournier

What is my book about?

Seb Fowler has arrived in Paris to research his literary idol, Henri Fournier. It begins with an interview granted by a woman whose affair with the celebrated writer trails back to World War I. The enchanting Pauline is fragile, but her memories are alive―those of an illicit passion, of the chances she took and never regretted, and of the twists of fate that defined her unforgettable love story.

Through Pauline’s love letters, her secrets, and a lost Fournier manuscript, Seb will come to learn so much more―about Pauline, Henri, and himself. For Seb, every moment of Pauline’s past proves to be more inspiring than he could have imagined. She’s given him the courage to grab hold of whatever life offers, to cherish each risk, and to pursue love in his life.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Lost Domain: Le Grand Meaulnes

Rosalind Brackenbury Why did I love this book?

The story of a boy growing up in France before World War 1, of friendship and love and a mysterious house to which the hero finds it hard to return, I have been mesmerized for a lifetime by this short novel, and it’s the basis for my own novel about Fournier’s life and loves.  

By Hermione Lee, Alain-Fournier, Frank Davison (translator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Lost Domain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The arrival of Augustin Meaulnes at a small provincial secondary school sets in train a series of events that will have a profound effect on his life, and that of his new friend Francois Seurel. It is Seurel who recalls the impact of le grand Meaulnes, disruptive and charismatic, on his schoolmates, and the encounter that is to haunt them both. Lost, and alone, Meaulnes stumbles upon an isolated house, mysterious revels, and a beautiful
girl. When he returns to Seurel it is with the fixed determination to find the house again, and the girl with whom he has fallen…


Book cover of The Ebony Tower

Rosalind Brackenbury Why did I love this book?

Another story that's impossible to forget – actually this is a novella in a collection of stories with this name. Again, about a lost house in a forest in France, an artist, a young man in love, and the two young women who bewitch him in turns. John Fowles is an English writer from the 1960s, whose work I loved when young and still do. He was much influenced by Alain-Fournier.

By John Fowles,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Ebony Tower as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Ebony Tower, comprising a novella, three stories, and a translation of a medieval French tale, echoes themes from John Fowles's internationally celebrated novels as it probes the fitful relations between love and hate, pleasure and pain, fantasy and reality.


Book cover of Divisadero

Rosalind Brackenbury Why did I love this book?

Although it begins in California, this novel develops into a story set in France. Two sisters, separated by their father after a violent incident, search for each other and eventually connect via a French recluse, whose life one sister is researching. I love Michael Ondaatje’s writing and this book in particular for its daring sweep of geographical and emotional territory. 

By Michael Ondaatje,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Divisadero as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It is the 1970s in Northern California. A farmer and his teenage daughters, Anna and Claire, work the land with the help of Coop, the enigmatic young man who lives with them. Theirs' is a makeshift family, until they are riven by an incident of violence - of both hand and heart - that 'sets fire to the rest of their lives'. This is a story of possession and loss, about the often discordant demands of family, love, and memory. Written in the sensuous prose for which Michael Ondaatje's fiction is celebrated, "Divisadero" is the work of a master story-teller.


Book cover of The Parisian

Rosalind Brackenbury Why did I love this book?

This is a recent first novel, set mostly in France, about a young Palestinian man who goes there to study medicine and falls in love with the daughter of his host. I’m still reading it, and admiring the sureness of touch, the knowledge of history, and above all the sense of the period – it’s set before World War 1 and continues through the 20th century. Brava, Isabella Hammad!

By Isabella Hammad,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Parisian as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A sublime reading experience: delicate, restrained, surpassingly intelligent, uncommonly poised and truly beautiful' Zadie Smith

**WINNER OF THE BETTY TRASK AWARD 2020**

Midhat Kamal - dreamer, romantic, aesthete - leaves Palestine in 1914 to study medicine in France, under the tutelage of Dr Molineu. He falls deeply in love with Jeannette, the doctor's daughter. But Midhat soon discovers that everything is fragile: love turns to loss, friends become enemies and everyone is looking for a place to belong.

Through Midhat's eyes we see the tangled politics and personal tragedies of a turbulent era - the Palestinian struggle for independence, the…


Book cover of The Ripening Seed

Rosalind Brackenbury Why did I love this book?

Anyone who wants to read a love story – all of us, surely – has to start with this story of young love set on the coast of the South of France in the early 20th century. Colette’s prose has been well matched by her translators and she’s simply a jewel of a writer and the first woman who really told the truth about love and sexuality.

By Colette,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Ripening Seed as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The author captures that precious, painful moment when childhood retreats at the onslaught of dawning knowledge and desire. Philippe and Venca are childhood friends. In the days and nights of late summer on the Brittany coast, their deep-rooted love for each other loses its childhood simplicity.


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At What Cost, Silence?

By Karen Lynne Klink,

Book cover of At What Cost, Silence?

Karen Lynne Klink Author Of At What Cost, Silence?

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Child abuse survivor Reader Adventure traveler Animal lover

Karen's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Secrets, misunderstandings, and a plethora of family conflicts abound in this historical novel set along the Brazos River in antebellum Washington County, East Texas.

It is a compelling story of two neighboring plantation families and a few of the enslaved people who serve them. These two plantations are a microcosm of a country on the brink of war, encompassing a variety of issues: love and friendship between men, relationships between fathers and sons, sibling rivalry, slavery, and the position of women in society.

At What Cost, Silence?

By Karen Lynne Klink,

What is this book about?

Adrien Villere suspects he is not like other boys. For years, he desperately locks away his feelings and fears-but eventually, tragedy and loss drive him to seeking solace from his mentor, a young neighbor Jacob Hart. Jacob's betrayal of Adrien's trust, however, results in secret abuse, setting off a chain of actions from which neither Adrien's wise sister, Bernadette, nor his closest friend, Isaac, can turn him.

At What Cost, Silence presents two contrasting plantation families in a society where strict rules of belief and behavior are clear, and public opinion can shape an entire life. Centerstage are the Villeres,…


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