Paris Je T’aime: 6 Books for Francophiles

June 6 2019

The romance. The wine. The art. The history. We’re forever dreaming of running away to Paris and living our best lives. But alas, real life has different plans. Luckily, we have these amazing books that keep us close to the city of lights no matter where we are in the world.

The Room on Rue Amélie
by Kristin Harmel

As if today’s Paris weren’t enough on its own, travel back in time to the early days of WWII and you’ll be swept away by drama, heartbreak, and the inspiration of people doing their best to resist the Occupation in this beautiful city. THE ROOM ON RUE AMELIE follows the lives of three characters—an American expat, a British RAF pilot, and a young Jewish girl—as they find themselves entwined in a fight for survival. The emotional story of this unlikely group is the heart of the book, but you’ll also relish Harmel’s descriptions of every café, alleyway, and, of course, that famous Parisian light. Immerse yourself in this historical novel, based on real events, and if you whisper a little “Paris, je t’aime” to yourself, well, we won’t blame you.

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The Room on Rue Amélie
Kristin Harmel

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How Paris Became Paris
by Joan Dejean

This is a dynamic biography that provides another level of appreciation and context to Paris’s charming and beautiful jardins, boulevards, and bridges. Told in an accessible way, this book is a fascinating and engaging journey through the historical innovations that occurred in Paris during the 17th century. Read it in preparation for a trip, or just to learn how modern staples like public transportation or mail delivery got their start.

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How Paris Became Paris
Joan Dejean

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The Queen of the Night
by Alexander Chee

This book set in the glitzy and gritty world of Second Empire Paris follows Lilliet Berne, a sensation of the Paris Opera who is on the verge of becoming a legend—all she needs is an original role. She is offered one, but realizes with horror that it is based on a dark secret of her past. Only four people know this secret, so who has betrayed her and why?

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The Queen of the Night
Alexander Chee

Lilliet Berne, legendary soprano at the Paris Opera, is offered a coveted original role, but realizes with horror that this new opera is based on the dark secrets of her own past. Who betrayed her? This thrilling historical drama is filled with so many things I love: mystery, political intrigue, opera, and treachery. —Sarah Jane

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The Paris Wife
by Paula McLain

Paula McLain introduces us to Hadley Richardson, only 28 when she falls for Ernest Hemingway. Her book captures the nuances of the merging of two people and the idea of a double life: one in the context of your partner, and one as yourself. Their intense connection eventually caves under other stressors and betrayals, yet “no one you love,” Hemingway writes, “is ever truly lost.”

Read the full review of THE PARIS WIFE.

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The Paris Wife
Paula McLain

This deeply intimate novel captures the love affair between two unforgettable figures: Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley Richardson. Despite their extraordinary bond, the Hemingways are ill-prepared for the hard-drinking and fast-living life of Jazz Age Paris, and they find themselves facing a deception that will lead to the unraveling of everything they’ve fought so hard for.

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Giovanni's Room
by James Baldwin

A controversial classic of queer lit, GIOVANNI’S ROOM features the doomed love story between an American expat and his Italian lover in Paris. Though raised in Harlem, Baldwin spent much of his adult life living in France; the haunting, lyrical prose of this novella captures his complex relationship with the seedy underbelly of the city of light.

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Giovanni's Room
James Baldwin

Read a Classic by an Author of Color

Set in the 1950s Paris of American expatriates, liaisons, and violence, a young man finds himself caught between desire and conventional morality. With a sharp, probing imagination, James Baldwin’s now-classic narrative delves into the mystery of loving and creates a moving, highly controversial story of death and passion that reveals the unspoken complexities of the human heart.

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The Invention of Hugo Cabret
by Brian Selznick

Set in 1930s Paris, THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET follows an orphaned clock keeper, a secretive toy seller, and his bookish goddaughter. The 500-page tome is bursting with full-page illustrations that show all sides of the city, from the interior of train stations to the glowing night skyline in all its splendor.

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The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Brian Selznick

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MENTIONED IN:

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