Favorite Novels Set in France

I find that books about France, whether fiction or non-fiction, pique my appetite for travel more than anything else. I love writers who weave culture and language into their stories and memories. Of course, the best books are probably those written in French, but since not everyone reads well enough to survive "Germinal", here's a list of my favorite English-language novels set in France.

Hotel Pastis, by Peter Mayle

Hotel Pastis, by Peter Mayle
Peter Mayle's novel about a rich advertising executive who gives it all up to open a hotel in the south of France has definite autobiographical undercurrents. It's an interesting and funny story with a bit of intrigue, crime, and romance thrown in for good measure. A must for Peter Mayle fans. Buy from Amazon »

Chocolat, by Joanne Harris

Chocolat, by Joanne Harris
A somewhat controversial novel, this is the story of a single mother who moves to a tiny French town, opens a chocolate shop, and inadvertently starts a war with the local priest. The character development is superb, the story is intriguing, and the descriptions of chocolate creations are divine. Don't read this book - or see the movie it inspired - without a good supply of chocolate! Buy from Amazon »

The Fly-Truffler, by Gustaf Sobin

A scholar of the Provençal dialect, the protagonist is mad about truffles - a typical state of mind in Provence. However, the narrator's obsession has less to do with their divine flavor than the fact that eating them allows him to communicate with his dead wife. A beautifully-written, haunting story. Buy from Amazon »

Chasing Cézanne, by Peter Mayle

This novel, which travels between Paris, Provence, and New York, is a fun and sometimes chaotic romp with photographers; magazine executives; art experts, thieves, and forgerers; friends and lovers; and - of course - plenty of French food and wine. Buy from Amazon »

The Last Life, by Claire Messud

The 15-year-old protagonist narrates her French-Algerian family's search for identity while moving around the world (Algeria, France, US). The historical context, particularly about the war in Algeria, is vivid and accurate, while the writing style is lyrical and just plain enjoyable to read. Buy from Amazon »

Blackberry Wine, by Joanne Harris

A once-successful author with writer's block and six bottles of magical wine moves to a tiny French town (the same imaginary village previously visited in Chocolat) in search of inspiration and memories of his dearest friend. He finds more than he ever bargained for. Buy from Amazon »

Anything Considered, by Peter Mayle

Imagine that you're down on your luck and decide to place an ad for any situation "except marriage." Imagine that a rich man with a truffle fetish sets you up in a new town with an apartment, a car, and a whole lot of cash. Imagine what can go wrong.... Anything Considered will defy all of your expectations.

Five Quarters of the Orange, by Joanne Harris

In stark contrast to Joanne Harris's previous novels, Five Quarters of the Orange is rather dark historical fiction - a recounting of the German occupation of France during World War II. Set in the same town and with the same beautiful language as the other novels, this book is nonetheless a harsher and blacker look at life in France. Buy from Amazon »