Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Alex's favourite HF set in France

French history was always a favourite of mine, but since I moved to France, this became more of a passion. I tried to choose books that are big favourites but also translated in English. Like always when doing these lists, I have the feeling that I'm forgetting something important...:)

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

This was one of my first French classics and unfortunately one that I haven't read in several years. The story is so intense that last time I felt completely wiped out when I reach the last pages of this incredibly rich and emotional roller coaster. This fragile and turbulent first half of the 19th century France is not my favourite period but Hugo's realistic social portrait (and Jean Valjean !) win me over immediately.

Mistress of the Revolution and For the King by Catherine Delors

Set in opulent, decadent, turbulent revolutionary France, Mistress of the Revolution is the story of Gabrielle de Montserrat. An impoverished noblewoman blessed with fiery red hair and a mischievous demeanor, Gabrielle is only fifteen when she meets her true love, a commoner named Pierre-André Coffinhal. But her brother forbids their union, choosing for her instead an aging, wealthy baron.
Widowed and a mother while still a teen, Gabrielle arrives at the court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette in time to be swept up in the emerging cataclysm. As a new order rises, Gabrielle finds her own lovely neck on the chopping block and who should be selected to sit on the Revolutionary Tribunal but her first love, Pierre-André. . . . (from Goodreads)

The Reign of Terror has ended, and Napoléon Bonaparte has seized power, but shifting political loyalties still tear apart families and lovers. On Christmas Eve 1800, a bomb explodes along Bonaparte's route, narrowly missing him but striking dozens of bystanders. Chief Inspector Roch Miquel, a young policeman with a bright future and a beautiful mistress, must arrest the assassins before they attack again. Complicating Miquel's investigation are the maneuverings of his superior, the redoubtable Fouché, the indiscretions of his own father, a former Jacobin, and two intriguing women. (from Goodreads)

Catherine Delors is in my auto-buy list since I first read For the King and she is one of my favourite authors in what concerns historical fiction in general. Not only her stories are captivating and her characters complex but you can feel that behind her effortless style there’s an extensive research that make everything so special. Also, if you have a huge crush for Paris like I do, both her books will be a delight. Last time I checked, Delors was writing about witchcraft and werewolves which couldn’t please me more. Can’t wait !
You can also read Ana's review of Mistress of the Revolution and the conversation that Ana, Marg and I had about For the King.

The Iron King by Maurice Druon ( I highly recommend all the series)

The Iron King (Le Roi de Fer) is the first book of an historical French series named The Accursed Kings (Les Rois Maudits) written by Maurice Druon. The story is set in the 14th century France during the last years of the reign of the King Philip IV, the Fair also known as The Iron King.
(excerpt from my review, see above)

The Accursed Kings series by Druon is considered a classic in France, and every history buff I know read, at least, the first book – The Iron King. I reviewed it some time ago when I had the chance to reread it during the release of a new edition of the series.
The books were adapted to the screen twice, even if the 70's version is far better. Unfortunately, I don't think this was ever translated in English.

The King’s Way (L’allée du roi) by Françoise Chandernagor

A magnificent story beautifully written about Françoise d'Aubigné, Madame de Maintenon. We follow the life of this intriguing and fascinating woman who becomes the king's favourite and his "secret" wife. This book is definitely one of my favourites set during Louis XIV reign and a must read.
Don’t forget to watch the movie adapted from this book, which is a real gem. I'll leave you with a scene: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5LmmZ9xxi8

The Oracle of Glass by Judith Merkle Riley

Genevieve is a precocious girl with the remarkable power to read the future in a water glass. Left for dead by her family, she is taken in by La Voisin, who rules a secret society of witches that manipulate the rich—from tradesmen all the way up to the king himself.

Genevieve transforms herself into the mysterious Madame de Morville, rumored to be 150 years old. Driven by the spirit of revenge, Genevieve is on the verge of discovering true love when the police sniff out the secret network of poisoners and sorcerers. Genevieve races to escape the stake, unaware who will live and who will die in the wake of the King's terrible vengeance. (from Goodreads)
Again another book set during the reign of Louis XIV and one that is been waiting in my "to be reread" pile for some time. I read The Oracle for the first time in my late teens and I kept wonderful memories of this book. It's the perfect mix of intrigue, love, history and politics. The main character, Geneviève Pasquier is the kind of heroine impossible not to like and who makes this brilliant story even more interesting.
Do you have any HF favourites set in France that you would like to share ?


  1. There are some great choices here, many I've never heard of. I'm definitely adding The Iron King and The Oracle Glass to my TBR pile. Thanks for sharing! (and BTW, I live in France, too!)

  2. Thank you for this list! I was thinking about French HF this month while doing September in Paris.

  3. I'm a fan of Judith Merkle Riley too. Wish she had more books. There is a disturbing and fascinating book you might like, called The Witches, by Francoise Mallet-Joris, based on three actual cases. Probably hard to track down. Also wondering if you have a preferred translation of Les Miserables?

    1. Yves,
      I didn't know Francoise Mallet-Joris but I found a copy of The Witches. It sounds just like my kind of read. Thanks !
      I read Les Miserables in French, so I really can't recommend a good translation. Maybe we could ask this to our readers and see what they think.

  4. I read The King's Way years ago and loved it. I never knew it had been made into a movie, I must track it down. Thanks for the list.

    1. J.T.,
      I hope you'll enjoy the movie as much as I did.:)

  5. Thanks for this fun list. I would add Abundance: A Novel of Marie Antoinette by Sena Jeter Naslund, and Madame Tussaud, by Michelle Moran. There's a great historical mystery series by Susanne Alleyn, also, that's set during and after the French Revolution in Paris. One of the recent ones is Palace of Justice.

    1. Thanks for sharing ! I'm taking note of Susanne Alleyn's mystery series.

  6. Don't tell me you've never read Scaramouche!

    1. I read Scaramouche but it's not a favourite.:)

  7. I haven't read 'Les Misérables'... I hope I'll be able to make it next summer though! Victor Hugo has written my, so far, favourite historical fiction novel set in France, Ninety-Three.

  8. Great list Alex! I'm looking forward to reading Les Miserables and I just discovered that I have the Françoise Chandernagor book in my TBR pile... I'll have to get to it soon...