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French-themed books to read this month

Explore hidden corners of France this month and how they change you when you live in them in two of our book pics, plus a whimsical Paris tale

Among this month's pick is the 2020 edition of France's most beautiful villages, where the photographs alone will make you want to try and visit each one Pic: Fotyma / Shutterstock

The Little Paris Bookshop - Nina George

Abacus, €9.35, ISBN: 978-0-349140-3-77

The Little Paris Bookshop Nina George, Abacus, €9.35, ISBN: 978-0-349140-3-77

The Little Paris Bookshop by German author Nina George is a whimsical take about a book-seller called Jean Perdu (Lost John). A ‘literary apothecary’, he lives on his book barge on the Seine in Paris, practicing a form of biblio-therapy, prescribing books to heal his customers’ various maladies.

The only problem he cannot fix is his own aching heart.

Twenty years earlier Manon, his soul mate, walked out on him, leaving a letter which he has never opened. As a result he is stuck, sleep-walking through his life unable to live fully. When he finally opens the letter, the truth is revealed. She left him because she was ill and wanted to spare him the pain of her last days.

He unties his book barge and sets off through France with two companions, journeying through Champagne and Burgundy, Lyon and Marseille, learning how to live and love again. (So the book is mainly set in Provence, rather than Paris.)

It’s an engaging read, touching on true love, friendship, mourning, courage, and the fears that hold us back from living.

There are echoes of other books set in France, and at the end, a list of maladies alongside Nina George’s suggestions for book remedies.

Now living in France, Nina George is a prolific author, and has written a whole clutch of books set in France, so if when you finish The Little Paris Bookshop, you find yourself longing for another dose of medicine, it will be easy to find.

Sabbatical in France: Adding a Second Life - Tom Cardwell

Legacy Book Publishing, €7.15, ISBN: 978-1-947718-76-0

Sabbatical in France: Adding a Second Life Tom Cardwell, Legacy Book Publishing, €7.15, ISBN: 978-1-947718-76-0

Ever since Peter Mayle hit pay dirt with A Year in Provence, his account of moving to France and meeting quirky French people, writers have been following suit. Some have been amusing, others less so. Tom Cardwell’s tale is interesting because it’s less about the funny foreigners and more about how he and his family changed as a result of buying a second home in France.

To a European living in France, a lot of his observations are bumpity-bump. We know all about French rules and regulations, we know they like eating, hold big markets, and have circus schools. He is, seemingly like all Americans, shocked by French bathrooms, and jokes about sex. What makes it endearing is just how much he loves all this; his wide eyed astonishment and admiration are very endearing to anyone who has ever felt even the tiniest bit jaded by life in France.

There is also the underlying pleasure of piecing together information about life in the US. They don’t have shopping carts in French street markets, he observes – shoppers have to carry their purchases away in shopping bags or use shopping bags on wheels. I was riveted. Does that mean there are shopping trolleys in American street markets?

Pour yourself a glass of wine, settle into the sofa and read Tom’s tales at your leisure – I think you’ll find them relaxing.

The Most Beautiful Villages of France 2020

Flammarion, €16.95, ISBN: 978-2-081508-28-6

The Most Beautiful Villages of France 2020 Flammarion, €16.95, ISBN: 978-2-081508-28-6

A book worth buying for the photos alone, although the 159 villages featured are also fabulous places to visit. Published by notfor- profit association Les Plus Beaux Villages de France, it is a printed temptation to get out and explore France.

The villages are selected for their authenticity, beauty and cultural heritage – and even out of season they make for a great day out. The book includes road maps, local history, sights and attractions as well as info about accommodation, restaurants and local foodie treats. This edition also contains routes for suggested walks around a dozen of the featured villages.

It covers mainland France, from the Alps through the vineyards of Provence, to medieval villages in Dordogne. It is incredible just how many stunning villages there are in France – and lots of readers aim to visit them all.

Book profits go back into the association. It has become so successful in France that it has now extended its activities and pioneered an International Federation of The Most Beautiful Villages in the World.

For more literary inspiration check out the Facebook group ‘Novels set in France’.

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French-themed books to read this month

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