The best books set in France that go beyond the rom com

Lilianne Milgrom Author Of L'Origine: The Secret Life of the World's Most Erotic Masterpiece
By Lilianne Milgrom

The Books I Picked & Why

A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II

By Sonia Purnell

Book cover of A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II

Why this book?

How is it that I never heard of Virginia Hall! Do heroines like her even exist anymore? That’s what kept going through my mind as I read this creative nonfiction novel about a courageous American spy who operated in France during the Nazi occupation. What a woman! With barely any training and almost no command of French, she succeeded in building a resistance network despite her debilitating physical disability – not to mention having to prove her worth to men unused to taking orders from a woman!


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The Vanished Collection

By Pauline Baer de Perignon, Natasha Lehrer

Book cover of The Vanished Collection

Why this book?

Pauline Baer de Perignon doesn’t hold anything back – she puts her ego aside as she shares her secret ambitions, doubts and insecurities, triumphs and frustrations on her mission to uncover a distressing chapter in her family’s history. The rhythm and pace are indicative of a book translated from the French - a slow-moving train rather than a speeding locomotive, but that just enhanced the feeling of accompanying the author on her passionate yet painful quest in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.


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The Paris Library

By Janet Skeslien Charles

Book cover of The Paris Library

Why this book?

I loved this book as much for its story as its turn of phrase. The Paris Library is set during the Nazi occupation of Paris. Although the book does not avoid addressing the privations and terror experienced by those living through that devastating period, it is the role the library played in people’s lives that is central to the story – it provided a precarious haven and a refuge of sanity. The novel is an important reminder that books are far more than words on paper – they have the power to sustain us through the darkest times.


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Loving Modigliani: The Afterlife of Jeanne Hébuterne

By Linda Lappin

Book cover of Loving Modigliani: The Afterlife of Jeanne Hébuterne

Why this book?

Loving Modigliani is no ordinary historical fiction novel. I was initially hesitant to read a book that required me to take a leap of faith and accept that the main narrator was a ghost, but I’m glad I did! So much has been written about Modigliani, but very few books give us insight into his surprisingly gifted and tragic young paramour, Jeanne Hébuterne. Despite the twists and turns and fantastical premise, I found myself totally engrossed in Lappin’s masterful storytelling.


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Love Among the Recipes

By Carol M. Cram

Book cover of Love Among the Recipes

Why this book?

Even though this book has an element of girl-meets-guy-in-Paris, I included it under the title of ‘books set in France that go beyond the rom com’ because it was so refreshing to read about a woman of a ‘certain age’ who comes into her own during a stay in Paris. The protagonist struggles with real-life issues, not the usual Emily-in-Paris dilemmas. Cram knows Paris like the back of her hand and deftly titillates all the senses with her food-inspired passages.


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