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MyFrenchLife™ Book Club: French literature challenge 2018 – our top 12 reads

MyFrenchLife™ - MyFrenchLife.org - MyFrenchLife™ book club: French literature challenge 2018 – our top 12 reads

Calling all Francophiles, lovers of literature, and savvy challenge seekers. Have you ever dreamt of joining a French book club? Well, nows your chance. Welcome to the MyFrenchLife 12-month French Literature Challenge 2018! Every month this year, we challenge you to sit back, relax, and delve into one of our specially chosen French books!

We’ve done our research and handpicked 12 of our absolute favourite top reads for 2018.

Our chosen writers range from the giants of classic French literature through to the incredible works of the contemporary. The twelve books vary in style, vocabulary, and theme – enough to keep you going all year round!

So, why take part in this book club? And why do we call it a ‘challenge’?

Perhaps you can’t resist a challenge.

Maybe you’re still looking for that perfect New Year’s resolution.

Whatever your reason, we challenge you to join us in our literary crusade and to make a commitment to read French this year – 2018!

Every opinion matters – especially yours!

We challenge you to join us to read in French and discuss – and share our views…

Each month, we’ll be consulting our French literature experts to bring you new and exciting French book reviews. We promise to dig deep and share our most intimate opinions, interpretations, and perceptions of France’s best literary offerings – and we’d love you to do the same in terms of your response, your views to those reviews (in the comments section) or even contribute your reviews!!!

So, let’s pick up our books and let the reading commence!

MyFrenchLife™ - MyFrenchLife.org - MyFrenchLife™ book club: French literature challenge 2018 – our top 12 reads1. January Book Club: Annie Ernaux – Journal du dehors

Ernaux brings us a fascinating diary broken into the fragments of her everyday commute, depicting a series of small essays on the people and events that occur around her.

All extracts emphasise the everyday people she passes in the Métro and the suburbs of Paris (Cergy-Pontoise). The separate events may feel slightly disconnected or disjointed.

Ernaux explores how we can identify ourselves through observing the outside world: conversations, graffiti on walls, everyday routines, gestures – fragments which leave a trace of our culture behind.

The text is almost a documentary of Ernaux’s world, like a snippet of history in itself – a perfect book for those beginning to read in French.

Join our online book club and get your voice heard – buy your copy here.

MyFrenchLife™ - MyFrenchLife.org - MyFrenchLife™ book club: French literature challenge 2018 – our top 12 reads2. February Book Club: Philippe Delerm – La première gorgée de bière

Delerm looks at the everyday through the perspective of those small pleasures which life often overlooks.

Explore the smallest fragments of everyday pleasure – from the very first sip of a cold beer to the delight of a beautiful box of cakes!

These short snippets of such simple and pleasurable moments almost bounce off the page with joy!

A fast read with an accessible writing style, Delerm really does teach us to relish the tiny pleasures of life!

Join our online book club and get your voice heard – buy your copy here.

MyFrenchLife™ - MyFrenchLife.org - MyFrenchLife™ book club: French literature challenge 2018 – our top 12 reads3. March Book Club: Flaubert – Madame Bovary

One of the best pieces of literature of all time, Emma Bovary’s life has even been adapted for the big screen!

Marrying Doctor Charles Bovary, Emma quickly realises that the reality of romance – and even being a mother – is not what she expected it to be.

Searching to create a life she has only read about in books, she begins a long journey of love affairs. Will she find her true love and get her happy ending? Read on to find out more.

Join our online book club and get your voice heard – buy your copy here.

MyFrenchLife™ - MyFrenchLife.org - MyFrenchLife™ book club: French literature challenge 2018 – our top 12 reads4. April Book Club: Proust – Un amour chez Swann

Du côté de chez Swann is the second part of the first volume in Proust’s famous masterpiece A la recherche du temps perdu.

Follow the love story of Charles Swann and Odette de Crécy, as Proust explores the difficulties of their relationship. Will Swann win Odette’s heart?

Introduced to Odette, a woman Swann wouldn’t normally associate with, the story explores his love and heartache. Warning – Proust is not for the faint-hearted.

The writing is dense and may not be the quickest to read, but the reward will always be worth it! Proust’s poetic tone and beautiful descriptions of Paris are enough to keep the reader gripped until the very end!

Join our online book club and get your voice heard – buy your copy here.

MyFrenchLife™ - MyFrenchLife.org - MyFrenchLife™ book club: French literature challenge 2018 – our top 12 reads5. May Book Club: Flaubert – Salammbô

Set in Ancient Carthage during the Mercenary revolt, this is Flaubert’s historical novel. The veil of the Goddess Tanit, believed to be shielding the city of Carthage, is stolen by Mâtho, leader of the mercenaries and Spendius, a recently freed slave.

The high priestess Salammbô, daughter of the famous Carthaginian general Hamilcar Barca, must get it back to save her city.

Prepare for battles of the grotesque, scenes of the exotic – and even the erotic! Salammbô is jam-packed with action and descriptions from start to finish.

Join our online book club and get your voice heard – buy your copy here.

MyFrenchLife™ - MyFrenchLife.org - MyFrenchLife™ book club: French literature challenge 2018 – our top 12 reads6. June Book Club: Stendhal – Le Rouge et le Noir

This is the story of the rise and fall of provincial dreamer Julien Sorel – the novel’s cunning, intelligent, and even romantic protagonist.

Leaving his poor life behind, Julien becomes the tutor for the children of the Rênal family.

It’s not long before the young tutor is working his way into the heart of Mrs Rênal, beginning a sordid love affair.

Gaining access to other social circles, Julien moves to the house of Marquis de la Mole to enhance his career, which leads to yet another love affair with de la Mole’s daughter – Mathilde!

The twist in this tale is violent and one that you won’t expect. A real page-turner, this is a book you definitely won’t be able to put down!

Join our online book club and get your voice heard – buy your copy here.

MyFrenchLife™ - MyFrenchLife.org - MyFrenchLife™ book club: French literature challenge 2018 – our top 12 reads7. July Book Club: Balzac – Le père Goriot

It’s time to enter La Comédie humaineBalzac’s world. The famous pasta-making Father Goriot lives in the Maison Vauquer, a boarding house in Paris, with other Parisian residents, including law student Rastignac and an elusive character; Vautrin.

Vautrin desperately tries to persuade Rastignac to pursue a rich young lady, Victorine, plotting to kill her brother to ensure her inheritance. Will Rastignac go through with Vautrin’s plan? Is love really all about money?

A classic in the world of French literature –  the descriptions, characters, and plot will have you desperate to read more of The Human Comedy!

Join our online book club and get your voice heard – buy your copy here.

MyFrenchLife™ - MyFrenchLife.org - MyFrenchLife™ book club: French literature challenge 2018 – our top 12 reads8. August Book Club: Stendhal – Lamiel

Are you bored of the classic French heroine being a passive, dull character? If so, you will love the audacity in Lamiel.

The story follows Lamiel, a young orphan, as she rises from 19th century French poverty to the dizzying peaks of high society.

A girl sheltered from the world, books, and (of course) men, Lamiel chooses to escape her constraints with drastic consequences.

Finally, a heroine that does what she wants! Read on to see what happens.

Join our online book club and get your voice heard – buy your copy here.

MyFrenchLife™ - MyFrenchLife.org - MyFrenchLife™ book club: French literature challenge 2018 – our top 12 reads9. September Book Club: Amélie Nothomb – Stupeur et Tremblements

Nothomb’s celebrated novel tells of her difficult experiences in Japan working as a translator for a Japanese company.

With differences in culture, language, and the corporate world, Amélie struggles to keep her head above water.

After being accused of stealing jobs and failing to gain credit for any of her hard work, will Amélie choose to stay in her job?

A short but fascinating read, with an interesting cultural outlook on differences between Europe and Japan.

Join our online book club and get your voice heard – buy your copy here.

MyFrenchLife™ - MyFrenchLife.org - MyFrenchLife™ book club: French literature challenge 2018 – our top 12 reads10. October Book Club: Laclos – Les Liaisons dangereuses

A classic in the world of French literature, Laclos’s novel is full of cunning, plotting, love affairs, and jealousy.

Two rivals and ex-lovers, The Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont, use seduction techniques to outdo each other through their manipulation of different people.

This epistolary novel feels more like a soap opera you would find on TV – full of drama, conflict, and confrontation! Set against a backdrop of seduction and manipulation, who will win this literary battle?

Join our online book club and get your voice heard – buy your copy here.

MyFrenchLife™ - MyFrenchLife.org - MyFrenchLife™ book club: French literature challenge 2018 – our top 12 reads11. November Book Club: Baudelaire – Les Fleurs du Mal

Explore Baudelaire’s spleen in his most famous volume of poetry; Les Fleurs du Mal.

The work has an abundance of themes ranging from love, memory, and the city of Paris to decadence, eroticism and misogyny.

Arguably some of the most beautiful poems ever to have been written, Les Fleurs du Mal is a must read!

Join our online book club and get your voice heard – buy your copy here.

MyFrenchLife™ - MyFrenchLife.org - MyFrenchLife™ book club: French literature challenge 2018 – our top 12 reads12. December Book Club: Camus – L’étranger

A short novel and a perfect start for those wishing to read more in French. The beginning may appear gloomy with the death of Meursault’s mother, yet the story becomes far more interesting as the plot progresses.

Meursault’s neighbour Raymond, who has recently beaten his mistress for her infidelity, is plotting revenge. Raymond asks Meursault to help him lure the woman to his house – but what are the consequences?

On the surface, the plot appears quite simple, yet is enriched with the philosophy of existentialism and the absurd.

Written in modern French (passé composé – NOT the traditional passé simple), it is a far easier option for anyone wishing to start reading in French.

Join our online book club and get your voice heard – buy your copy here.


Now it’s your turn to get involved – let the challenge begin!

Join us now for the very first online book club as we review:
Find a review, questions, and discussion…
January – Annie Ernaux’s Journal du dehors – come on over !  

February – Philippe Delerm’s La Première Gorgée de Bière  come on over !


What do you think of our 12 top reads for 2018? Are you excited to take on the challenge and join our French book club? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments box below and let’s get reading!


Image credits
1. Images 1-3, 5-7, 9-13 © Jessica Rushton
2. Madame Bovary, via Flickr
3. Le père Goriot, via Flickr


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  1. Keith Van Sickle
    7 months ago

    Hi Jessica,

    A nice list! Thank you for putting it together and leading the charge!

    For those who might like some alternative choices, here are a few that might be interesting.

    – Meursault contre-enquête, by Daoud. This is a fictional response to L’étranger, written by the brother of the “Arab” killed by Meursault in the original book. It’s very interesting to read this after L’étranger, bringing both family life and modern Algerian politics into the mix.

    – Anything by Modiano; I especially liked Dans le café de la jeunesse perdue

    – For beginning readers, a classic is Pagnol’s Le Gloire de mon père

    – Last year’s winner of the Prix Goncourt is a policier with a penetrating look at modern urban life, Chanson douce by Slimani

    – And for something quite different, the autobiographical L’Arabe du future by Sattouff, Tomes I & II (III isn’t as good.) These are BDs but extremely intelligent and interesting.

    Best, Keith


    • Jessica Rushton
      7 months ago

      Hi Keith,

      Merci beaucoup for your wonderful alternatives! It was a difficult choice to pick only 12 — why is the year not longer!
      I didn’t realise Daoud had done a reponse to Camus and definitely now want to get my teeth into this.

      So glad you put Modiano…I love him too – ‘Dora Bruder’ was one of my absolute favourite texts in French that actually started my passion for reading in French during my first year at university!

      Thank you again – it’s definitely given me more to add to my own personal reading list!

      Very best wishes

      Jessica


  2. Debra Finerman
    7 months ago

    I’m looking forward to joining the book club and to start reading. Thank you for this mix of classics I’ve read and would love to revisit and the recent books that are new to me. Lots of great ideas for expanding our horizons literally and literature-ly.


  3. Jeanne Cosmos
    3 months ago

    Wow & most excellent list of reads. Very exciting! I’m wondering ‘how to join?’ Otherwise, I have June book selection & am on a flight to Paris in a few days – so, that’s the book I’ll bring. I will have to back up & read the first six selections. I actually teach Camus “The Stranger” to my first year English Comp classes and find students in the (18-23 age range) have so very much to say. Even though I’m teaching, every semester is a new & wonderful experience- as every class & group of people bring something new and a different lense to the reading. Bon Chance. A bientot! Jeanne


    • Judy MacMahon
      2 months ago

      Bonjour Jeanne
      Thanks so much for your comment and enthusiasm.
      If you are a signed-up member of MyFrenchLife and you receive ‘le Bulletin’ newsletter every Saturday, you’ll be alerted to activity in relation to this book club. The facilitator is, Jessica Rushton and you’ll see that we’re publishing Jessica’s review of each book at the end of each month. Please feel free to engage in discussion in the comments section under each of those book reviews.
      Here is the May book review:

      AND, we have another book club facilitated by Jacqueline Dubois Pasquier our Paris based correspondent and MyFrenchLife Liaison. Here is the list for that Bookclub. The focus is on contemporary French literature, in English. To read what the French are reading now! Recently translated, best-sellers and award-winning French books. Just 5 top reads!
      https://www.myfrenchlife.org/2018/01/31/french-book-club-french-best-sellers/
      This club has just finished reading their second book, which you can read about here: https://www.myfrenchlife.org/2018/03/27/french-book-club-edouard-louis/
      A lot more information on this club will be found in our closed MyFrenchLife Community Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/MyFrenchLifeCommunityPage/
      When there, go to ‘Announcements’ and ‘Files’ and you’ll find regular articles and documents by Jacqueline.

      I hope that you enjoy!
      Judy