… Get a life! …read & think says Vivienne Westwood – le Bulletin – Conversation

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I urge you to join me to enrich my life with more reading

After asking for your reading suggestions last week, I posted the same question on our MyFrenchLife –  MaVieFrançaise® facebook page and the result is that my reading list is coming along well.

Then I came across this video by Vivienne Westwood who says:

If you want to get a life you have to read… You have to invest in yourself.

So, I’m encouraged to continue this discussion and to urge you again to contribute in the comments below.

And here is what Vivienne has to say…


What are you reading?

Just as a reminder…

  1. Which books do you have beside your bed right now? and
  2. Which are your favourite (Francophile/Francophone) reads in English or French?
  3. Which books are you loving that are not Francophile or Francophone reads but are wonderful?

Francophile suggestions

Here are some Francophile reading recommendations from Shannon Ables of The Simple Luxurious Life. You can click through and buy from Shannon’s site right now if you wish to do so.

And amongst this very small sample, I see a few gems written my some of you! Felicitations.

MyFrenchLife™ – MaVieFrançaise® - MyfrenchLife.org - http://www.thesimplyluxuriouslife.com/product-tag/francophile-finds/ Reading

MyFrenchLife™ – MaVieFrançaise® - MyfrenchLife.org - http://www.thesimplyluxuriouslife.com/product-tag/francophile-finds/ Reading MyFrenchLife™ – MaVieFrançaise® - MyfrenchLife.org - http://www.thesimplyluxuriouslife.com/product-tag/francophile-finds/ Reading


More Francophile suggestions – focus on rural France

I came across this list of 11 novels based on rural France – The Local asked authors to nominate their favourite books on France. As a result, there are more than 11 recommendations here 🙂

Anyway, of the 11 novels named, three of them aren’t novels ;), so we’ve added another suggestion to the list (sourced from the Facebook comments on that post) – anything authored by Martin Walker, Anthony Doer or Irène Némirovsky – do you have other suggestions?
1. The Ghost Riders of Ordebec – Fred Vargas

“Fred Vargas is my favourite novelist,” says author and comedian Ian Moore.  Moore has also written about life in rural France. Check out his first book – A la Mod: My So-Called Tranquil Family Life in Rural Francehere on Amazon.

2. The Debt to Pleasure – John Lanchester

Another recommendation from Ian Moore, this time for a book by John Lanchester. “Food is the essence of France, a reason and method of celebration but also of superiority and snobbishness,” Moore says. “Seen through the eyes of John Lanchester’s brilliant, sinister creation, Englishman Tarquin Winot, this is a mysterious, wonderful ‘road trip’ through France and ‘modern life’ itself. It’s beautifully written and the wicked Tarquin is one the great modern ‘anti-heroes’. “And, it has recipes!”

3. Blackberry Wine – Joanna Harris

Author and columnist Samantha Brick recommends this novel from Joanna Harris. Brick herself is no stranger to writing about rural France – find her book “Head Over Heels in France: Falling in Love in the Lothere on Amazon.

4. Chocolat – Joanne Harris

 Samantha Brick, clearly a big fan of Joanna Harris, adds that you can’t go past her hit novel Chocolat. “This beautifully written novel expertly weaves scene after scene, combining all of the senses – especially taste and touch – in an utterly magical narrative,” says Brick.

5. The Nightingale – Kristin Hannah

Journalist and author Deborah L. Jacobs recommends this novel by Kristin Hannah. “This tale of two sisters from a fictitious Loire Valley village provides a vivid view of French rural life before and during the Nazi occupation,” she says. Jacobs is the author of the new book, Four Seasons in a Day: Travel, Transitions and Letting Go of the Place We Call Home, about how she quit the job from hell, rented her New York City townhouse and planned to Airbnb her way through rural France.

6. Heads Above Water: Staying Afloat in France – Stephanie Dagg

This book by Stephanie Dagg is a must-read, says France-based author Vanessa Couchman. “She and her husband and school-age children moved from rural Ireland to even more rural Creuse, a department in central France, where they started a fishing gite business,” she says. “The book relates the experiences of their first two years with humour and realism. Check out Vanessa Couchman’s blog, Life on La Lune, here (where you can find out about her most recent novel The House at Zaronza, set in early 20th-century Corsica and at the Western Front during WWI.

 7.  Diary of a French Herb Garden – Geraldine Holt

This 2002 book by Geraldene Holt “gives you a real flavour of village life in the southern Ardèche”, says Sheila Milne, who has previously written about the best books set in France. “… it’s more than just a gardening book, much more, because of the beautiful descriptions of life in France accompanied by intriguing snippets of information about the uses of herbs.”

8.  Seeking Whom He May Devour – Fred Vargas (again)

Another book by Fred Vargas, also recommended by Sheila Milne. “My second choice is a complete contrast to the first.  It is a crime novel by Fred Vargas who normally sets her books in Paris. The setting here though starts out in a village in the Alpes Maritimes where there are rumours of a werewolf on the loose. A woman is murdered and Commissaire Adamsberg comes to investigate,” she says.

9.  Bonjour Tristesse – Françoise Sagan

The 1954 classic by Françoise Sagan can’t be missed, says journalist and author Helena Frith Powell. “At once tragic, beautiful and evocative, it’s written very simply but with an incredible, almost cruel insight. “Plus it’s the perfect holiday read as it’s set on holiday in the south of France.”

10.  Second Harvest – Jean Giono

This 1930 book, penned in French as “Regain” by Jean Giono, gets the hat tip from fellow author and history buff Stephen Clarke. “This is the opposite of the twee visions of ‘la campagne’ presented by relocation programmes on TV,” Clarke tells The Local.
Stephen Clarke’s own comic take on French rural life features in his novel Merde ActuallyHis latest novel is the more urban Merde in Europe.

11.  A Year in Provence – Peter Mayle

And lastly… Let’s face it, if you’re going to read books about life in the French countryside, then you may as well start one of the most well-known of all. This 1989 bestseller by Peter Mayle – which describes the author’s time in France after an advertising career in London – helped push “stranger in a strange land” books back onto bookshelves worldwide (and especially the books about France). Author Stephen Clarke said this “really well-written book” actually served as the “counter inspiration” for his “Merde” series. “That book was about the south of France, it’s all sunny, it smells of lavender and olive oil, and all the peasants are quaint idiots. In my experience, in Paris, it was the opposite,” he said.


Books, books, books – What a French immersion – almost an indulgence – non ?

Wider reading suggestions – on our Facebook page

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MyFrenchLife™ - MyFrenchLife.org - Reading

MyFrenchLife™ - MyFrenchLife.org Reading

Do you have other reading suggestions? (in the comments below)

And do you read ‘en francais’?
Then please join the conversation with Jessica and other members and share your views, experiences and advice.

Until next le Bulletin on Saturday – au revoir


PS: Catch-up

If you missed any of the recent ‘Conversations’ you can play catch up here and now!


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About the Contributor

Judy MacMahon

Experience FRANCE beyond the CLICHÉ with MyFrenchLife.org MyFrenchLife is for Curious Savvy Francophiles wherever you are. Meet Francophiles in France, online, and/or wherever you live. You’re very welcome to join us - Judy MacMahon - MyFrenchLife.org

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  1. Otir Apr 16, 2017 at 12:41 PM - Reply

    Giono and Sagan! Wonderful authors and what a great choice!

    To read in French, I would highly recommend the delicious Colette and the series of Claudine : “Claudine à l’école” “Claudine à Paris”. Let me know if you enjoyed them! They are classics of French literature, and Colette has a very pure and easy to read French.

    • Judy MacMahon Apr 17, 2017 at 1:35 PM - Reply

      Thanks Otir I haven’t read those! I’ll let you know how I go and I’m sure others will love to receive your recommendations – Colette and the series of Claudine : “Claudine à l’école” “Claudine à Paris”
      à bientôt

  2. Jan Leishman Apr 30, 2017 at 7:11 PM - Reply

    The worst thing about visiting France is to be stranded with hundreds of books in a French bookshop and not be able to read them! So I began by buying ‘easy-to-read’ works by Katherine Pancol, Tatiana de Rosnay, Annie Ernaux, where I can (almost) get through them without a dictionary to get the general gist – then re-read much slower, trying to understand exactly what they mean! They are about 100 pages, so not too long and of subjects I am interested in. I think (hope) I am improving, but on my second read I often find that I totally missed the meaning on my first read! When I say ‘easy-to-read’ I mean books with large type and short sentences.

    • ketty mora Jun 7, 2017 at 1:19 PM - Reply

      I read a very little book by Annie Ernaux, Passion Simple, and was immediately hooked; I read it in one afternoon. I then went on to read Se Perdre, which reads also very easy and quickly. I am now reading Les Années, a bit more complicated and I stagnate a bit, also lots of words I can’t understand, but very good up until the point I’m at. I will have to look at Katherine Pancol and Tatiana de Rosnay too; any book in particular you recommend?

  3. Patsy Toland Jun 3, 2017 at 8:57 PM - Reply

    The Elegance of the Hedgehog. One of my favourites.

    • Judy MacMahon Jun 5, 2017 at 5:32 PM - Reply

      Bonjour Patsy
      Thanks so much for your suggestion! I too love this book. Did you read it in English or in French?

  4. ketty mora Jun 7, 2017 at 1:22 PM - Reply

    I recently read Chanson Douce by Leila Slimani which earned her the Prix Goncourt in 2016. She’s young and her voice is simple, to the point, fresh. I enjoyed this book because is extremely well written and I read it quickly, taking in all the tribulations of the daily life of a Parisian couple. The story in question I didn’t love, but overall it was a great read I recommend everyone. I just ordered Dans le Jardin de l’Ogre, her previous book, which has many negative reviews, but I will read it nonetheless because I am loyal like that 🙂

    • Judy MacMahon Jun 14, 2017 at 5:30 PM - Reply

      Bonjour Ketty I’m sure that other members will also appreciate you adding to our reading list – merci mille fois !

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