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Longing to Travel? Explore France with These 9 Magnifique Reads

February 23 2021
Share Longing to Travel? Explore France with These 9 Magnifique Reads

Ah, Paris: the glittering lights of the Eiffel Tower, the sheen of rain-slicked streets at night, the elegance of the lively outdoor cafés. If you’re anything like us, you’ve been feeling that French wanderlust calling your name. Since there’ll be no overnight flights to the City of Lights this winter, try taking a trip by reading one of these atmospheric and cinematic books, all set in France. From cozy Parisian bookstores to stunning countryside vistas and historical secrets, these books have everything you need for a perfect French adventure (in any era!) from the comfort of your own couch.

The Paris Library
by Janet Skeslien Charles

In 1939, Odile lives an idyllic life as a librarian at the American Library in Paris, but everything changes when Nazis march into Paris. To defend the library and city she loves, Odile becomes part of the Resistance. But after the war, a betrayal destabilizes her again. Told in dual narratives, the story alternates timelines to 1983 Montana, when lonely teen Lily strikes up a friendship with her mysterious elderly neighbor. As the two grow closer through their shared love of language, they will discover that they have much more in common than they ever thought possible. THE PARIS LIBRARY is based on true stories of heroic librarians during World War II, and explores the power of books and community in the fight against evil.

Plus, check out THE PARIS LIBRARY book club kit packed with French recipes, French music, a reading list of books mentioned in the novel, and much more!

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The Paris Library
Janet Skeslien Charles

Based on the true World War II story of the heroic librarians at the American Library in Paris, this is an unforgettable story of romance, friendship, family, and the power of literature to bring us together, perfect for fans of The Lilac Girls and The Paris Wife.

Paris, 1939: Young and ambitious Odile Souchet has it all: her handsome police officer beau and a dream job at the American Library in Paris. When the Nazis march into Paris, Odile stands to lose everything she holds dear, including her beloved library. Together with her fellow librarians, Odile joins the Resistance with the best weapons she has: books. But when the war finally ends, instead of freedom, Odile tastes the bitter sting of unspeakable betrayal.

Montana, 1983: Lily is a lonely teenager looking for adventure in small-town Montana. Her interest is piqued by her solitary, elderly neighbor. As Lily uncovers more about her neighbor’s mysterious past, she finds that they share a love of language, the same longings, and the same intense jealousy, never suspecting that a dark secret from the past connects them.

A powerful novel that explores the consequences of our choices and the relationships that make us who we are—family, friends, and favorite authors—The Paris Library shows that extraordinary heroism can sometimes be found in the quietest of places.

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Lost in Paris
by Elizabeth Thompson

Hannah Bond left her hometown in Florida for the secluded British countryside to escape her alcoholic mother, Marla. Which is why she’s so distressed one evening to find Marla on her doorstep with an offer to move to Paris together to take possession of her late great-grandmother Ivy’s apartment. When Hannah and Marla arrive, they find the apartment identical to how it was in 1940. They also find Ivy’s diary, which takes the mother-daughter duo through a tour of 1920s expat Paris and the secrets Ivy spent years hiding.

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Lost in Paris
Elizabeth Thompson

“A luscious, layered story of inheritance, heartbreak, reinvention, and family. I adored this book.” —Kristan Higgins, New York Times bestselling author

When a deed to an apartment in Paris turns up in an old attic trunk, an estranged mother and daughter must reunite to uncover the secret life of a family matriarch—perfect for fans of The Little Paris Bookshop and The Beekeeper’s Daughter.

Hannah Bond has always been a bookworm, which is why she fled Florida—and her unstable, alcoholic mother—for a quiet life leading Jane Austen-themed tours through the British countryside. But on New Year’s Eve, everything comes crashing down when she arrives back at her London flat to find her mother, Marla, waiting for her.

Marla’s brought two things with her: a black eye from her ex-boyfriend and an envelope. Its contents? The deed to an apartment in Paris, an old key, and newspaper clippings about the death of a famous writer named Andres Armand. Hannah, wary of her mother’s motives, reluctantly agrees to accompany her to Paris, where against all odds, they discover great-grandma Ivy’s apartment frozen in 1940 and covered in dust.

Inside the apartment, Hannah and Marla discover mysterious clues about Ivy’s life—including a diary detailing evenings of drinking and dancing with Hemingway, the Fitzgeralds, and other iconic expats. Outside, they retrace her steps through the city in an attempt to understand why she went to such great lengths to hide her Paris identity from future generations.

A heartwarming and charming saga set in the City of Lights, Lost in Paris is an unforgettable celebration of family and the love between a mother and a daughter.

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Leonora in the Morning Light
by Michaela Carter

In 1937, British socialite and aspiring painter Leonora Carrington follows Max Ernst, an older, married, and famed artist, to Paris. There, he introduces her to the icons of the Surrealist movement and, inspired, Leonora’s own artistic pursuits take flight. But when Max and his friends are arrested as degenerates, Leonora must survive the war alone. Years later, in 1940, Max struggles against impossible odds to get back to Paris, avoid Nazi capture, and return to her. LEONORA IN THE MORNING LIGHT illuminates that long-overlooked history of a fascinating and empowering female heroine.

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Leonora in the Morning Light
Michaela Carter

One of O, The Oprah Magazine’s “Most Anticipated Historical Fiction Novels That Will Sweep You Away” and LitHub’s “Most Anticipated Books of 2021.”

For fans of Amy Bloom’s White Houses and Colm Tóibín’s The Master, a page-turning novel about Surrealist artist Leonora Carrington and the art, drama, and romance that defined her coming-of-age during World War II.

1940. A train carrying exiled German prisoners from a labor camp arrives in southern France. Within moments, word spreads that Nazi capture is imminent, and the men flee for the woods, desperate to disappear across the Spanish border. One stays behind, determined to ride the train until he reaches home, to find a woman he refers to simply as “her.”

1937. Leonora Carrington is a twenty-year-old British socialite and painter dreaming of independence when she meets Max Ernst, an older, married artist whose work has captivated Europe. She follows him to Paris, into the vibrant revolutionary world of studios and cafes where rising visionaries of the Surrealist movement like Andre Breton, Pablo Picasso, Lee Miller, Man Ray, and Salvador Dali are challenging conventional approaches to art and life. Inspired by their freedom, Leonora begins to experiment with her own work, translating vivid stories of her youth onto canvas and gaining recognition under her own name. It is a bright and glorious age of enlightenment—until the shadow of war looms over Europe and headlines emerge denouncing Max and his circle as “degenerates,” leading to his arrest and imprisonment. Left along as occupation spreads throughout the countryside, Leonora battles terrifying circumstances to survive, reawakening past demons that threaten to consume her.

As Leonora and Max embark on remarkable journeys together and apart, the full story of their tumultuous and passionate love affair unfolds, spanning time and borders as they seek to reunite and reclaim their creative power in a world shattered by war. When their paths cross with Peggy Guggenheim, an art collector and socialite working to help artists escape to America, nothing will be the same.

Based on true events and historical figures, Leonora in the Morning Light is an unforgettable story of love, art, and destiny that restores a twentieth-century heroine to her rightful place in our collective imagination.

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The Philosopher's Kiss
by Peter Prange

In this passionate tale of rebellion and the power of knowledge, eighteen-year-old Sophie flees to Paris after a life-altering betrayal. But Paris in the 1700s is a tumultuous place, and soon Sophie finds herself involved with Denis Diderot, a married man and famous philosopher attempting to create the world’s first encyclopedia. As the project forges ahead, Sophie learns that the book is even more dangerous than she originally thought, as its pages hide the seed of revolution in a fast-changing world.

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The Philosopher's Kiss
Peter Prange

Now in paperback, The Philosopher’s Kiss tells the passionate love story between Sophie, a girl from the French countryside, and Denis Diderot, the famed philosopher behind the creation of the first encyclopedia.

Internationally bestselling author Peter Prange makes his US debut with a luminous historical novel.

Truth. Betrayal. Revolution. Love. ENLIGHTENMENT.

PARIS, 1747. Betrayed by God and humanity, eighteen-year-old Sophie moves to the seething French capital and finds work as a serving girl at Café Procope. Here, against her will, she falls deeply in love with Denis Diderot, the famed philosopher and a married man. He and his colleagues are planning the most dangerous book in the world since the Bible: an encyclopedia. Even more scandalous are references concealed within that threaten to undermine both the monarchy and the church. But Sophie soon realizes that even her own rights to freedom, love, and happiness are at risk. Prange powerfully recreates a fascinating era in this spirited story of passion, censorship, self-expression, and rebellion.

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The Chanel Sisters
by Judithe Little

Antoinette and Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel grow up as the wards to nuns but are determined to break into high society. When they are finally old enough to leave the convent, the two strike out to the City of Lights in pursuit of the dazzling world of their dreams. But just as their boutique business seems to be expanding, World War I throws their lives and loyalties into chaos. THE CHANEL SISTERS is a glamorous and sensitive rags-to-riches story about the bonds of family and ambition.

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The Chanel Sisters
Judithe Little

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Lana's War
by Anita Abriel

Lana Antanova is still grieving the Nazi execution of her husband for hiding a Jewish girl in 1943 Paris, and it is only after she is recruited by the Resistance on the French Riviera that she finds a new reason to live. With her family background, Lana is able to infiltrate the Russian aristocratic community that wines and dines with German officers. But as Lana grows closer to those in danger—and the man assigned to go undercover with her—Lana’s mission gets more complicated than she expected in this page-turning historical drama.

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Lana's War
Anita Abriel

From the author of the “fast-paced, heartbreaking, and hopeful” (Kristin Harmel, author of The Room on Rue Amélie) The Light After the War, a riveting and heartfelt story of a young woman recruited to be a spy for the resistance on the French Riviera during World War II.

Paris 1943: Lana Antanova is on her way to see her husband with the thrilling news that she is pregnant. But when she arrives at the convent where he teaches music, she’s horrified to see Gestapo officers execute him for hiding a Jewish girl in the piano.

A few months later, grieving both her husband and her lost pregnancy, Lana is shocked when she’s approached to join the resistance on the French Riviera. As the daughter of a Russian countess, Lana has the perfect background to infiltrate the émigré community of Russian aristocrats who socialize with German officers, including the man who killed her husband.

Lana’s cover story makes her the mistress of Guy Pascal, a wealthy Swiss industrialist and fellow resistance member, in whose villa in Cap Ferrat she lives. Together, they gather information on upcoming raids and help members of the Jewish community escape. Consumed by her work, she doesn’t expect to become attached to a young Jewish girl or wonder about the secrets held by the man whose house she shares. And as the Nazis’ deadly efforts intensify, her intention to protect those around her may put them all at risk instead.

With Anita Abriel’s “heartfelt and memorable” (Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author) storytelling, Lana’s War is a sweeping and suspenseful tale of survival and second chances during some of the darkest days of history.

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Mistakes Were Made (Some in French)
by Fiona Lewis

In this humorous and vulnerable memoir, actress Fiona Lewis impulsively buys a dilapidated chateau in the South of France to combat her doubts about aging and regret. Although she’s led a glamorous and fascinating life, traveling across London, Paris, and Hollywood in the ’60s and ’70s, Fiona now finds herself having to confront her childhood, her past affairs, and her fear that she has been never been a real success. Through it all, Fiona’s witty and sensitive narration makes this a romance, a journey of self-discovery, and an exploration of the Hollywood lifestyle.

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Mistakes Were Made (Some in French)
Fiona Lewis

Mistakes Were Made is a revealing memoir and unexpected love story from model and actress Fiona Lewis about her journey to self-acceptance as she restores a crumbling French chateau. Alone in the French countryside, Lewis reflects on her glamorous youth across London and Paris in the ’60s, Hollywood in the ’70s, and the important, sometimes disastrous, choices she made along the way.

Having lived a perfectly satisfactory life in California for over two decades, Fiona Lewis wakes up one day in her fifties and asks herself, Is this it? Is this the existence I’m meant to have? She can hardly complain. After all, her life has been full of adventure and privilege: London and Paris in the ’60s, Los Angeles in the heady ’70s. Now, however, she feels lost, as if she were slipping backward over the edge of a ravine, abandoned not only by her old self, but by that reliable standby, optimism. Realizing she has to find a way to reinvent herself, she impulsively buys a rundown chateau in the South of France. (Her husband is not pleased.)

Alone in the depths of the countryside, she contemplates her childhood, her affairs––Roman Polanski, Roger Vadim––her years as an actress in some good and some questionable films, and her first Hollywood marriage to the damaged son of a movie star. As the renovation drags on, fighting with a band of impossible French workmen, she is forced to battle her own fears: her failure to become a real success, her inability to have children, and her persistent fear of aging.

And she has to contend with her husband, who has no interest in the French countryside. In fact, he resents her obsession with France, with the house, with the renovations. The house seems to have a hold over her, and he’s not wrong. He reluctantly visits and is annoyed by the cost of the renovation. Was she not content with him in LA? Why can’t she just be happy?

It’s an age-old question and one every woman must confront, along with aging, lost love, and missed opportunities. Yet, Fiona’s wit and wisdom prevail. And this provocative, brave memoir takes a stunning turn when all those unanswered questions develop into a tender and unexpected romance.

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MENTIONED IN:

Longing to Travel? Explore France with These 9 Magnifique Reads

By Alice Martin | February 23, 2021

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In Darkness, Look for Stars
by Clara Benson

It’s 1941 and Paris is facing unprecedented challenges. Young and headstrong Maggie, despite her mother’s wishes, gets involved in the Resistance, helping Jews escape across the border. But as things get increasingly dangerous, she has to bid farewell to her friend and fellow Resistance fighter Emil, who flees to southern France, where he finds refuge at Maggie’s shy sister Cecilia’s home. As Cecilia falls further and further in love with Emil, her involvement in the movement increases, but soon she must decide how far she is willing to go for love.

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In Darkness, Look for Stars
Clara Benson

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MENTIONED IN:

Longing to Travel? Explore France with These 9 Magnifique Reads

By Alice Martin | February 23, 2021

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The Greater Journey
by David McCullough

In THE GREATER JOURNEY, Pulitzer Prize winner David McCullough explores the lives of the incredible American artists, writers, and thinkers in Paris from 1830 to 1900. McCullough’s book captures stories ranging from Samuel F. B. Morse’s invention of the telegraph to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s trip following the publication of UNCLE TOM’S CABIN. And while he covers the lives of better-known figures such as Mary Cassatt and John Singer Sargent, this panoramic epic also recounts lesser-known tales, such as that of American ambassador Elihu Washburne, who remained at his post throughout some of the biggest conflicts in French history.

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The Greater Journey
David McCullough

Between 1830 and 1900, hundreds of Americans—including Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Oliver Wendell Holmes—traveled to Paris, and their experience abroad dramatically shaped them in ways that would later affect their contributions to art, medicine, politics, and more upon their return to the United States.

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photo credit: istock / encrier

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