Postcards from France

travel stories from France by Gai Reid

READING ideas

These are some of my favourite books about France – mostly travel memoirs:

 Please send me your favourites, I am always looking for new titles.

It all started with “A Year in Provence” by Peter Mayle

In 1989 a small paperback bought at an airport bookshop for the trip from Launceston to Adelaide, changed my reading habits forever. I couldn’t put it down.

Times read:  I reckon I’ve read it 6 times at least, so far!

Mayles other books in this genre are almost as good –  “Toujour Provence” and “Encore Provence” – the trilogy!

Times read:  Maybe 3 or 4 times each so far

Then there was “Bon Appétit”, not quite as engaging, but a fun easy read.

Times read:  twice

Also in this genre and on my bookshelf waiting to be opened –  “Perfume from Provence” and “Sunset House” by Lady Forescue.  They are a 1930s version of Peter Mayle’s stories of Provence.

 

“Without Reservation” – Alice Steinbach

This is a beautifully written and structured book, beginning in Paris and moving on to other locations, not necessarily in France. I loved the way she sent herself postcards, to read and remember when she got home, and I’ve copied that idea myself for “POSTCARDS from FRANCE”  to be published soon on Amazon.

Times read:  probably 4 so far

 

“Eat, Pray Love”  – Elizabeth Gilbert

This book had a profound effect on me spiritually and emotionally. I loved her bare honesty, her willingness to be vulnerable juxtapositioned with incredible determination, humility and sensational humour! This book made me start writing my own memoir, which ended up becoming “Postcards from France”.

Times read: 4 so far – I know I’ll come back at some point for another

 

“French Spirit” – Jeffrey Green.

An American poet whose prose is equally evocative, manages to move gently through the ubiquitous renovation of a dilapidated French presbytery in a village in Burgundy, without it being about the renovations.  There’s a generous helping of life and people as well.

Times read:  3 so far

 

“Under the Tuscan Sun” – Frances Mayes

A beautiful book, gorgeous writing, vivid imagery. Inspirational. I also love the movie version, even though it barely resembles the book.

Times read: 2 time so far ….watched movie about 4 times.

 

 “La Vie Parisienne” – Janelle McCulloch

This sassy and rich book is written by a beautiful and smart Australian journalist. It’s about her experiences living in Paris, with the not so fun parts left in. After the first reading I thought it felt like a collection of magazine articles, but I enjoyed it more on the second reading. The publishers have sprung for a stunningly beautiful presentation of the book.

Times read:  2 so far

 

“The Vine Garden” and “The Angel Tree” – Alex Dingwell-Main

This English guy is another version of Monty Don. He moves with his young wife and child to Provence and begins a high end landscaping business. It’s a different angle and I enjoyed the male perspective of life in rural France.

Times read:  Twice each, so far

 

“Deep France” – Celia Brayfield

This one is by a Canadian living in England, another journalist who manages to break away from the journalistic style to create a gentle, easy flow through her move to an isolated village in the Bearn, close to the Spanish border. I love the book because it’s like a magazine. I always have a book in the car for emergencies! This has been my car book for a couple of years now. I read a few chapters then I put it down for a few weeks or even months. I can pick up where I left off without needing background.

Times read: 1 so far

 

“Almost French” – Sarah Turnbull

This was one of my first books in this genre and while I enjoyed the read and the stories of the Australian woman’s Parisienne experiences (I identified with her, also being an Australian woman with a television production background) I thought she was a bit harsh at times.

Times read: 1 so far

 

“From Here You Can’t See Paris” – Michael Sanders

This is an interesting story from the perspective of a restaurant in a tiny village Les Arques. I think the title is a bit demeaning to Paris and I almost didn’t buy it!

Times read:  1  

 

“Tout Sweet” & “Tout Allure”  –  Karen Wheeler

Written by an English fashion editor with a penchant for the Poitou-Charentes. The first book was light and breezy, kind of fun vicariously hanging out with her strange friends in France. The second one brought nothing of interest to me.

Times read: 1 time each

 

“Lavender and Linen” – Henrietta Taylor

Written by an Australian woman working hard at making France home for her and her children, I found it an average read, but I finished it and have her other book “Escaping” on my bookshelf for future reading.

Times read: 1

 

“La Belle Saison” – Patricia Atkinson

This one is set on a vineyard run by the author. That’s all I can remember.  I didn’t find it warm and inviting.

Times read:  1

 

“The House in France”  – Gully Wells

This one feels a bit like the house is the storyteller, via Ms Wells and her family. It’s called La Miguou and it is in Provence.  There’s a lot of name dropping, which can help you get published but I wasn’t all that impressed.

Times read: 1

 

 Other books set in France:

 “The Paris Wife” – Paula McLain

Is one of my all time favourite books. I LOVE this book almost as much as I love “Brideshead Revisited” which I’ve been reading over and over since the 1980s. It is fiction, based on fact – a genre I admire and enjoy immensely. This story is written from the voice of Hadley, first wife of the young Ernest Hemingway. I think she was a saint to put up with him to start with, and the stories from 1920s Paris are so evocative. It’s a quiet version of “Midnight in Paris”, a stunningly sensational move that all Francophiles must see.

Times read:  3 so far

 

“Paris – The Secret History” – Andrew Hussey

This is a fat book with small type. It’s not a breeze to read, but it is full of fascinating fact about France, whether you like it or not!  It looks at the ugly side of life in past centuries, reinforcing my belief that we are blessed to be living in the most peaceful and humane time in history!  I’ve not managed to get to the last page yet, but one rainy day…

Times read:  1 so far

 

“Paris France” – Gertrude Stein

Stein is a name you will come across many times if you delve even at a shallow level, into the recent past of literary/artistic Paris. She was held in high esteem by many artists and writers of the heady 1920s and 30s.  She is played beautifully in “Midnight in Paris” by Kathy Bates.  This book reads like she’s getting down on paper, her raw thoughts about various things. There is no narrative thread, no obvious structure, but it gives insight into this important time in the 20th century.

Times read: 1 so far 

2 Comments

  1. One of the best book written by a foreigner about Paris is according to me
    ” True pleasures ” by the Australian Lucinda Holdsforth
    it’s very true what she writes about French women and very sensitive also .

  2. That sounds familiar, I will look for this one. MERCI

Please share your thoughts on anything French. Merci

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