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Posts Tagged ‘best books to take on holiday’

Pierre & Vacances’ Top Summer Holiday Reads

July 20, 2010 11:23 am
posted by Rebecca

School’s almost out and we’ve done our homework so you don’t have to, and come up with the ultimate list of France- themed books to take on your summer holidays!

From Dumas to Dickens to de Botton, offering inspiration for Francophiles (and Francophobes) everywhere!

Best books about France?

What better way to gain a deeper understanding of your French cousins than by immersing yourself in the wise words penned by fellow expats, soaking up sage observations of those who’ve trodden the highways of gay Paris and pedalled their way through the byways of rural Provence (to emerge unscathed). Apart from hopping on the Eurostar and experiencing it for yourself at one of our Pierre & Vacances resorts of course!

Books set in France

There is a wealth of work by British writers who’ve embraced la vie francaise. The trails, tribulations and triumphs of expat life across the Channel have given birth to a veritable canon of humorous novellas aimed at entertaining and educating other Brits.

Top picks include:

A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle

Originally hailing from Brighton, Peter upped sticks and moved to France soon becoming the Godfather of Anglo-Franco Expat Lit. Published in 1989, A Year in Provence, chronicles a year in his life as a British expatriate in Ménerbes, Vaucluse. (He also wrote A Good Year, which was made into a beautifully shot film starring a fairly inoffensive Russell Crowe.) The autobiography deals with unexpectedly fierce weather and unruly workers, all washed down with plenty of fabulous fare.

Amazon says: “Who hasn’t dreamed, on a mundane Monday or frowzy Friday, of chucking it all in and packing off to the south of France? Provençal cookbooks and guidebooks entice with provocatively fresh salads and azure skies, but is it really all Côtes-du-Rhône and fleur-de-lis? Author Peter Mayle answers that question with wit, warmth, and wicked candor in A Year in Provence, the chronicle of his own foray into Provençal domesticity.”

Hot deal: Prices for a one-week summer break start from only €430 for a studio apartment sleeping four people at Résidence Club Le Domaine de l’Estajan in Camargue in August 2010.

A Year in the Merde by Stephen Clarke

Paying tribute to Mayle with the title, Stephen Clarke’s tale is written under the pen name of alter ego Paul West, a 27-year-old Englishman who is recruited by a French entrepreneur and given a one-year contract to come to Paris to plan and organize a chain of tea rooms. Although a fictional work masquerading as an autobiography, the comic novel is based on Stephen’s own experiences of living in France, where he has now resided for over a decade. Publishers Weekly says: “Take a self-assured Brit with an eye for the ladies, drop him in the middle of Paris with a tenuous grasp of the language and you have Clarke’s alter ego, Paul West, who combines the gaffes of Bridget Jones with the boldness of James Bond.”

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

Of course, long before Peter Mayle was taking on life in Provence, American writer, Ernest Hemingway, had shared his more nostalgic experiences with this memoir of life in 1920s Paris. “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast,” he says.

Amazon says: “Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley, lived happily on $5 a day and still had money for drinks at the Closerie des Lilas, skiing in the Alps, and fishing trips to Spain. On every corner and at every café table, there were the most extraordinary people living wonderful lives and telling fantastic stories. Gertrude Stein invited Hemingway to come every afternoon and sip “fragrant, colorless alcohols” and chat admid her great pictures. He taught Ezra Pound how to box, gossiped with James Joyce and caroused with the fatally insecure Scott Fitzgerald.
“Hemingway beautifully captures the fragile magic of a special time and place…”

Other expat titles to check out include:

French Leave by John Burton Race

French Leave follows two-star Michelin chef John Burton Race, his wife, six children and Labrador dog as they escape everyday life in London and head off to rural France to set up home for a year. The book chronicles John Burton Race’s return to his culinary roots and his adventures along the way. There are specially commissioned authentic French country recipes including Asparagus Hollandaise; Pommes Boulangeres; Roast Duck with Prunes and Wild Strawberry Shortcake.

An Englishman in Paris by Michael Sadler

Michael Sadler takes the British reader through all the things that can spoil any visit to the City of Light. Sadler may have been born on the South Coast, but after spending a year in the French capital he found himself virtually transformed into a native. He had learned to live with the pitfalls of a language, the dangerous French traffic, how to order in every kind of restaurant and even how to negotiate the heady world of romance in this most amorous of cities.

The Secret Life of France by Lucy Wadham

At the age of eighteen Lucy Wadham ran away from English boys and into the arms of a Frenchman. Twenty-five years later, having married in a French Catholic Church, put her children through the French educational system and divorced in a French court of law, Wadham is perfectly placed to explore the differences between Britain and France.

Get into a French frame of mind…

You may argue that reading about expats in France isn’t enough to really get under the skin so we’ve included some recommended reads on great Frenchmen and French thinking to redress the balance!

How Proust Can Change Your Life by Alain de Botton

Valentin Louis Georges Eugène Marcel Proust is best known for his monumental À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time). Proust was born in Auteuil (the southern sector of Paris’s then-rustic 16th arrondissement). Begun in 1909, À la recherche du temps perdu consists of seven volumes totalling around 3,200 pages. Graham Greene called Proust the “greatest novelist of the 20th century”, and W. Somerset Maugham called the novel the “greatest fiction to date.” Proust died before he was able to complete his revision of the drafts and proofs of the final volumes, the last three of which were published posthumously and edited by his brother, Robert.
In this self-help styled book the Swiss-born writer, TV presenter and philosopher examines Proust’s thoughts on such things as how to revive a relationship, choose a good doctor, enjoy a holiday, make friends and respond to insult. Reviewers say “How Proust can change your Life takes Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time as the basis for a sustained investigation into the power and significance of literature”.

Sex, Lies and Handlebar Tape: The Remarkable Life of Jacques Anquetil, the First Five-times Winner of the Tour de France by Paul Howard

A biography of French cycling star Jacques Anquetil, the first man to win the Tour de France five times, in 1957 and from 1961 to 1964. The son of a builder, Jacques was born in Mont-Saint-Aignan, in the hills above Rouen in Normandy, north-west France. Notable achievements include winning a bronze medal at the 1952 Summer Olympics, beating the world hour record in 1956 and becoming the first man to win all three grand tours – the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana as well as the first man to win both the Tour and Vuelta in one year. He was also famous for admitting to using drugs, confessing that his only motivation for riding was financial, seducing his doctor’s wife, having a child with her daughter and then sustaining a menage a trois with his wife and stepdaughter under the same roof for 12 years. (Golly, a meatier version of Hello mag.)

Tall Tales

If your ultimate holiday read is more likely to feature a little drop of escapism then the following French themed stories will be right up your street.

Chocolat by Joanna Harris

If you haven’t read this – where have you been for the last decade?? And if you have read it, it’s probably time to read it again. No English writer better evokes the atmosphere and intricacies of a French bygone era than Joanna Harris. She says:
“Chocolat was never intended to be an accurate representation of “today’s France”. It is a France seen through a very selective, very personal filter which has as much to do with nostalgia as with present-day realism.”
Seductive, full of magic, love and faith, this novel is guaranteed to set hearts racing – even before you start thinking of the film and Johnny Depp.

Labyrinth by Kate Mosse

Modern day mystery meets medieval myth and magic – what better ingredients for a good summer read? And where better to set this than the Pyrenees and Languedoc. Labyrinth was a New York Times bestselling novel, it won the Best Read category at the British Book Awards 2006, was number one in UK paperback for six months — selling nearly two million copies — and was the biggest selling title of 2006. In 2007, it was named as one of the Top 25 books of the past 25 years by Waterstones.
Reviewers say:
“A gripping holy grail quest … the story line runs on knowledge and fun – Carcassonne never looked so good.” (Anthony Sattin, The Sunday Times)
“The author has combined an ingenious adventure story with a wonderfully detailed account of the historical background of the Languedoc … the result is entirely compelling and full of incidental pleasures.” (Christina Koning, The Times)

Hot deal: Prices for a one-week summer break start from only €240 for an apartment sleeping four people at Résidence Maeva La Socanelle in Port la Nouvelle in August 2010.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

A Tale of Two Cities, published in 1859, is set in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution. With 200 million copies sold, it is the most printed original English book.

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Madame Bovary is Gustave Flaubert’s first published novel and is considered his masterpiece. The story focuses on a doctor’s wife, Emma Bovary, who has adulterous affairs and lives beyond her means in order to escape the banalities and emptiness of provincial life.

The Three Muskateers by Alexandre Dumas

Set in the 17th century, it recounts the adventures of a young man named d’Artagnan (not to be confused with TV cartoon character Dogtanian) after he leaves home tobecome a guard of the musketeers.

Last minute holiday to France

Looking for some last minute sunshine? Pack some of the books above into your suitcase and head to to book a last minute holiday to France!

Take advantage of our last minute holidays to France and save up to 30% off our self-catering apartments. Find out more here.