Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Book list with a Parisian flavour ...

I have been asked to come up with a suggested reading list for a bookclub, and have put the following together, all of which have a "sort-of Parisian" theme. I lived in Paris for a while, so I suppose there may be an element of nostalgia here. I miss visiting Shakespeare's bookshop and the wonderful little independent cinemas in the Latin Quarter; Paris has got to be the best place in the world to live if you are a film buff. Sadly my sons got wise to this some time ago and now in response to a film recommendation always ask suspiciously "is it in black and white?"

But to the list (see what you think - suggestions welcome):

The Three Evangelists by Fred Vargas (304pp)

Three historians live next door to an opera singer who finds one morning that a tree has suddenly and mysteriously appeared in her garden. A novel that lies parallel to the better known series by the same author (a lady, despite her pen name, and an architect to boot) featuring the cranky detective, Adamsberg. An interesting view of French life, particularly the high regard in which any form of cultural or intellectual activity is held.

The Scapegoat by Daniel Pennac (256pp)

The first in what has become known as the Belleville series by Daniel Pennac, one of the most original and imaginative novelists to have emerged in France in recent years. Set in a multi-racial suburb of Paris, the books focus in particular on the North African community. Be prepared for a highly original view of Paris and some larger than life characters.

The Thought Gang by Tibor Fischer (311pp)

A philosophy professor begins a new career as a French bank robber. Another quirky view of France and the French by this highly acclaimed novelist.

The Dumas Club by Arturo Perez-Reverte (336pp)

A fitting recommendation for a book club, containing as it does references to many, many books, and being loosely set around (and possibly within) The Three Musketeers. Set partly in France, but also Spain and Portugal. Part whodunnit, part literary novel, part bibliophiles’ handbook.

A Man’s Head by Georges Simenon (144pp)

Not the first, but the earliest of the famous Maigret series which I can find in print in English translation, portraying Paris society of a bygone age. Simenon was a serious literary novelist, but achieved popular acclaim for this wonderful detective series, which he wrote over a period of about 40 years. Maigret was most famously portrayed on screen by Jean Gabin.

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