Usually in April I write something about books set in Paris. Not only is the theme April in Paris always fun, but I have specific memories around Paris in April. I’ve spent a good amount of time in the city, though until 2016 I hadn’t been back for over 20 years. That year, I was so pleased to be part of the first ever Festival du Roman Féminin, a celebration of romance novels in Paris, which was held in April. They’ve moved the festival dates to May now, and I do hope to get back someday, but no luck so far. Nonetheless, if you find yourself planning a trip to Paris in May, be sure to check out my favorite conference ever! Learn more here.
Since so many of us watched the fire at Notre Dame with helplessness and heartbreak, I thought it was a good week to write about some good Paris books to remind us how amazing the city is.
I’m a huge fan of Sarah Morgan, and she wrote the perfect book for this post! ONE SUMMER IN PARIS may be her best book ever. I loved it.
To celebrate their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, Grace has planned the surprise of a lifetime for her husband—a romantic getaway to Paris. But she never expected he’d have a surprise of his own: he wants a divorce. Reeling from the shock but refusing to be broken, a devastated Grace makes the bold decision to go to Paris alone.
Audrey, a young woman from London, has left behind a heartache of her own when she arrives in Paris. A job in a bookshop is her ticket to freedom, but with no money and no knowledge of the French language, suddenly a summer spent wandering the cobbled streets alone seems much more likely…until she meets Grace, and everything changes.
Grace can’t believe how daring Audrey is. Audrey can’t believe how cautious newly single Grace is. Living in neighboring apartments above the bookshop, this unlikely pair offer each other just what they’ve both been missing. They came to Paris to find themselves, but finding this unbreakable friendship might be the best thing that’s ever happened to them…
The Kirkus review called it “a cheerful and heartwarming look at friendship, family, love, and new beginnings” which is a lovely description, and also a perfect book to read as we contemplate the renewal of Spring and the rebuilding of a medieval marvel.
I love the book for many reasons, but to me the standout character is Audrey—dyslexic, daughter of an alcoholic, trying, while still a teenager, to re-invent herself. All would be lost if she hadn’t met Grace, but that’s the beauty of life and fiction, isn’t it? Sometimes we meet the exact right person at the perfect moment when we need to move forward and they can help.
The book is charming and lovely, and I highly recommend it to anyone, but especially to people who need their own Paris reading fix right now.
Here are some other great Paris and France-based titles you may like:
One of the best YA books ever! If you haven’t discovered ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS yet, from the inimitable Stephanie Perkins, you’re missing out. (Yes, even if you’re not a huge YA fan, it’s worth a read.)
I love everything Juliet Blackwell, and she has three France-based stand-alone titles, LETTERS FROM PARIS, THE PARIS KEY, and THE LOST CAROUSEL OF PROVENCE.
Alyson Richman’s THE VELVET HOURS and Michelle Gable’s A PARIS APARTMENT both revolve around a Paris apartment abandoned for 70 years, a treasure trove of artifacts and history from a forgotten time—a remarkable true story worthy of a novel or two! (If you missed the news on that, you can read about it here.)
THE LOST VINTAGE by Ann Mah revolved around a legendary French wine family and their activities during WWII, weaved into a contemporary dual timeline. I really enjoyed it. (Burgundy, not Paris, but lovely and I previously wrote about it here.)
Of course if you like books about the resistance, there’s THE NIGHTINGALE by Kristin Hannah, and don’t miss Susan Wiggs’ MAP OF THE HEART.
Thirty years ago this summer, I studied in Avignon, where I met some friends that I have kept in touch with and still hold fiercely in my heart. It was the wildest summer of my life, and everywhere I went, European men asked me out. One even proposed to me, after a couple light-hearted dates, which was a bit of a surprise. (He was 27. I told him thank you, but I needed to get my degree.) So when I heard about SEVEN LETTERS FROM PARIS, I knew I had to read it! Fascinating and romantic. Same summer, completely different outcome to a French romance! I’ve become friendly with the author, Samantha Vérant, who has an upcoming fiction release in 2020.
And if you like Paris memoirs, one must mention PARIS IN LOVE by Eloisa James; the stunning watercolor memoirs of Janice MacLeod, A PARIS YEAR and PARIS LETTERS; and my favorite Ernest Hemingway book, A MOVEABLE FEAST. (And great companion piece to that is THE PARIS WIFE, a fictionalized account of Hemingway’s relationship with his first wife Hadley, by the remarkable Paula McLain.)
For a special treat, pick up A PARIS ALL YOUR OWN: Bestselling Women Writers on the City of Light, a collection of Paris-themed essays from some great authors, including Paula MacLain and Lauren Willig, another of my faves.
There are a gazillion books on Paris, about Paris and featuring Paris—and I’m sure I’ve missed some I love. What are some of your favorites?