The best books set in France to inspire and excite the imagination

Who am I?

My love affair with France began years ago with a holiday to St Malo. Since then, it’s been hard to stay away. Luckily, my husband felt the same way and eventually, we decided to buy a country estate in the rural southwest. Today, I write about our wacky lives here, how we refurbished our home and came to live with so many animals. We’re immersed in a quirky farming community that lives in harmony with the seasons. Honestly? Nothing much has altered for the past thirty years. It’s magical. Oh, and when we have time, we’ll explore our locality. We still have so much here to discover.

I wrote...

Fat Dogs and French Estates, Part 1

By Beth Haslam,

Book cover of Fat Dogs and French Estates, Part 1

What is my book about?

Buying a country estate in France seemed such a simple idea. When Beth, her grumpy husband Jack, and their two fat dogs set off, little do they know that it will become an extraordinary adventure. Surviving near-death experiences, they drive thousands of kilometres viewing French estates steeped in history and crazy aristocrats. Will they find their dream home or return to Britain defeated? This is the first instalment in Beth’s hugely entertaining Fat Dogs series.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Damson Skies and Dragonflies

Why did I love this book?

A touch of French magic.

In this memoir, the reader is invited into the author’s enchanting world. She and her husband view a gracious old cottage. It’s tired, though possesses that special je ne sais quoi. Inexplicably drawn to its soul, they embark on a project to restore life and love into its walls and garden.

During this captivating journey, Lindy learns about her surroundings, the colourful characters who become their friends, the creatures that share their home, but mostly she learns about nature and the joys of living in harmony with the seasons. 

The author’s style is delightful. Her new experiences, feelings, and encounters are expressed with a gentle, poetic intimacy. She also delights with her culinary skills and shares heavenly recipes. For me, this was an intoxicating read.

By Lindy Viandier,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

No. 1 Best Seller in French Travel and New Release in French Cooking.

“Is it too much?” I mouth to my husband when the estate agent’s back is turned. I’m talking about the amount of work, not the asking price, as we survey the dilapidated state of the 300-year-old house. He gives me a knowing look, purses his mouth in a French way and shakes his head. He’s going to do a deal. The truth is, too much work or not, it’s too late. The fairy-tale cottage has spun her magic web around us, and we are her willing captives.…

Book cover of Code Name Camille: A story of trust, love and betrayal

Why did I love this book?

A novel set in Nazi-occupied France during World War 2? It promised to be gripping. It was.

I was quickly immersed in an oppressive environment where French citizens’ lives are strictly controlled. For many, it is a living nightmare. Failure to toe the line leads to often harrowing consequences.

This is the story of a courageous young woman who refuses to give in. She moves to Paris, where she joins the Resistance movement. Here, she is pushed to the limits of her resolve as she faces extreme danger.

Throughout, the author paints a superb picture of the period. Balanced by historical facts, the plot unfolds with vivid imagery. It is a compelling adventure with a catch that grabs the reader’s imagination. 

By Kathryn Gauci,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the USA Today runaway bestseller, The Darkest Hour Anthology: WWII Tales of Resistance.
Code Name Camille, now a standalone book.

1940: Paris under Nazi occupation. A gripping tale of resistance, suspense and love.

When the Germans invade France, twenty-one-year-old Nathalie Fontaine is living a quiet life in rural South-West France. Within months, she heads for Paris and joins the Resistance as a courier helping to organise escape routes. But Paris is fraught with danger. When several escapes are foiled by the Gestapo, the network suspects they are compromised.

Nathalie suspects one person, but after a chance encounter with a…

Book cover of Faring to France on a Shoe

Why did I love this book?

We live close to the Canal du Midi and regularly enjoy blissful dog walks on the towpath. Spotting this memoir about faring to France immediately piqued my interest. 

The author’s colourful descriptions gently transported me to her watery world. Through Val’s narrative, I admired the scenery, both industrial and pastoral, and I could almost hear the wavelets lapping against the bows of her beloved barge, the Hennie H. 

Throughout Val and her partner’s trip, the reader is given fascinating history snippets. And, as with all great writers, there’s drama and fun, too. Val made me giggle, especially with her vignettes about their simple living arrangements aboard.  

This book contains both humour and depth, it is a celebration of this author’s excellent writing.

By Valerie Poore,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Faring to France on a Shoe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A travelogue about a dream come true. After seven years of owning their barge, Hennie-Ha, seven years involving catastrophe and crisis, Val and her partner finally go 'faring' to France for the first time. This travelogue is about the places they visit and the people they meet along the canals on their route from the Netherlands, through Belgium and into northern France. It tells a gentle story about how they experience their life on board during the four weeks they spend cruising. Written as a journal, the reader joins them on their travels through rain and shine and reveals how…

Grape Expectations

By Caro Feely,

Book cover of Grape Expectations

Why did I love this book?

Enjoying wine is second nature here in France. But what does it take to produce a perfect vintage? This no-frills memoir gave me the answers. 

An Irish couple moves to the Dordogne. Realising their dream, they buy a vineyard in financial trouble only to find that they have taken on more than they realised. And it’s tough on them all. Caro takes the reader on a detailed journey, describing the challenges of renovating their dilapidated farmhouse whilst learning to become wine-makers. 

I was fascinated by the gritty realities and hard work needed to make their vineyard a going concern. I was also hugely impressed. I suspect that many others in a similar situation would have given up. Amazingly, they continue whilst bringing up their young daughters and integrating into their local community. I was engrossed throughout.

By Caro Feely,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Grape Expectations as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Filled with vivid descriptions of delicious wines, great food, and stunning views, this is a unique insight into the world of the winemaker, and a story of passion, dedication, and love

When Caro and Sean find the perfect 10-hectare vineyard in Saussignac, it seems like their dreams of becoming winemakers in the south of France are about to come true. But they arrive in France with their young family (a toddler and a newborn) to be faced with a dilapidated 18th-century farmhouse and an enterprise that may never, ever make them a living. Undeterred by mouse infestations, a leaking roof,…


By Kate Mosse,

Book cover of Labyrinth

Why did I love this book?

Labyrinth is primarily set in Carcassone, with its ancient cité that looks like a fairyland castle. We live close, and since it is one of my favourite UNESCO sites, I had to read Kate Mosse’s highly acclaimed novel.

Opening with a present-day archaeological dig, the reader is introduced to the first of two protagonists – a young volunteer whose disturbing discovery uncovers an extraordinary connection to her past. The plot shifts to the Middle Ages and a girl in Carcassone who finds herself embroiled in a secret she must keep. The links between the two women are slowly revealed.

Deceit, conspiracy, evil, and love, this captivating thriller seamlessly switches between the ages as the mystery behind the labyrinth is exposed. I found it compulsive reading.

By Kate Mosse,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Labyrinth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

July 2005. In the Pyrenees mountains near Carcassonne, Alice, a volunteer at an archaeological dig, stumbles into a cave and makes a startling discovery-two crumbling skeletons, strange writings on the walls, and the pattern of a labyrinth.

Eight hundred years earlier, on the eve of a brutal crusade that will rip apart southern France, a young woman named Alais is given a ring and a mysterious book for safekeeping by her father. The book, he says, contains the secret of the true Grail, and the ring, inscribed with a labyrinth, will identify a guardian of the Grail. Now, as crusading…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in France, vineyards, and Paris?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about France, vineyards, and Paris.

France Explore 776 books about France
Vineyards Explore 8 books about vineyards
Paris Explore 292 books about Paris

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Eleanor of Aquitaine, Life and Food in the Dordogne, and A Year in Provence if you like this list.