Here are a few of my favourite reads
In a similar vein to Poppies, these are stories of people learning about and adjusting to life in rural France and are some of my favourite reads. If you know of a book or author that should be on this list, please let me know.
You may also want to explore the list of books at the Read France web site.
A Bull by the Back Door How an English Family find their own paradise in rural France
by Anne Loader illustrated by Patricia Kelsall.
This is a lovely book with all the ups and downs of falling in love with a neglected French house in the Limousin and coming to terms with the consequences. It explores some of the abandoned historical fragments found in the house. Great illustrations. One of a series of books.
A Garden In Sarlat: Fulfilling an ambition to run a bed and breakfast in The Dordogne
by David Prothero
This is a great read, tracking David and Wendy’s experience of change of lifestyle and moving from Yorkshire to Sarlat to set up their wonderful B&B just down the road from Poppies. Read the book and stay in the hotel!
A Year in Provence
by Peter Mayle
Peter is probably the best known author on the subject of Brits making a life in France. Having sold over 6 million copies, he has proven how interested people are in French living.
Bon Courage, les Anglais (Tales of the Uninitiated in Rural France)
by Peter and Christine Wakefield
It is a slim volume which I feel is both authentic and touching, telling of both the highs and the lows. It tells of what can go right as well as what can go wrong.
Death In The Dordogne: Bruno Chief of Police 1
by Martin Walker
This is the first of a series of Bruno books. A romantic whodunit with an edge set in the Dordogne. I can’t believe it won’t appear as a TV series in the near future.
Glass Half Full: The Ups and Downs of Vineyard Life in France
by Caro Feely
It is truth universally acknowledged that it is easy to make a small fortune from wine making. As long as you start with a large one, that is. This book is the latest of a number of books by Caro telling the tale of leaving Ireland and with her husband, Sean, whom she met in South Africa, and taking on a vineyard and turning it into a bio (organic) vineyard. Eschewing chemicals and moving from machine-harvested to hand-harvested grapes, it describes some of the risks and hardships as well as the tremendous rewards of being one of the first to undertake such a project on a tight budget. The vineyard is near Saussignac, some 60 miles west of Gourdon. Read the book, visit the vineyard, taste and buy the wine.
Home & Dry in France (or a Year in Purgatory)
by George East. Illustrations by Tobin Evans and maps by Con Barnes
I have recently re-read this with it is as good the second time round as the first. He is a great raconteur and the biography on his web site is as entertaining as his books. Although this hails from the time of the French Franc, the lessons are as valid now as they were then. There is a whole series about his experience of buying and renovating houses in the Cotentin peninsula in Normandy and beyond. The advice and pitfalls make it essential reading for anyone considering life in rural France. The illustrations are also wonderful.
My Life in France
by Julia Child
This tells the tale of a Californian moving to France just after WW2 and learning French cuisine and writing Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The latter became a standard for French cooking in the USA for decades.
My Good Life in France
by Janine Marsh
This is tells of Janine falling in love with a dilapidated house in north-east France and making it home for herself and the stray animals who adopt her. It is warm-hearted and celebrates the life style and quirks of life in France.
One Sip at a Time: Learning to Live in Provence
by Keith Van Sickle
Keith and Val are Californians and this book tells of their experiences in France. As a Brit who has worked for a Californian company for some years, I like reading books by Americans in France because they often give revealing insights as to how they see the British, not always entirely complimentary. He is equally candid in his views of some aspects of French people, such as their driving style. There are entertaining accounts of their experiences as they adjust to rural life in Provence. The structure is almost one of a diary, writing up events as they happen. The anecdotes are perceptive and very entertaining. Topics include the trials of learning to speak French, how to kiss French people and local cuisine, a matter close to my heart.
Picnic in France: A Memoir with Recipes
by Elizabeth Bard
I don’t know about you, but I find it difficult to resist a book on someone’s experiences of adjusting to life in rural France which includes recipes! A New Yorker married to a Frenchman, Elizabeth describes the attractions and surprises of family life in a Provençal village.
Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong
by Jean-Benoît Nadeau and Julie Barlow
This is a must read. It is a most insightful book about the French people. It is very well researched and a great read, bringing to bear north-American continent sensibilities, being written by two French speaking Canadians. Their approach is to try and understand France on its own terms, rather than lapsing into either clichés or, even worse, trying to make France fit into preconceptions. They rightly identify that, unlike the USA or Canada, France has a history and culture which is traceable over many centuries. Where I depart from their perspective is that this is unusual in Europe. In the English village where we live our church is Norman in origin and around a thousand years old. In England a church of this age is not unusual. There is another in the neighbouring village. The same could be said of many countries in Europe. As a result, despite the pressures of the EU towards uniformity in many facets of life, European countries all have their distinct cultures of great longevity. So to say that France’s history has developed over many centuries is true. But the same could be said about Germany, Spain, Italy, Greece, and so on. This is no surprise to a European, though I understand that this may be novel for some people from the north-American continent.
Tout Sweet: Hanging up my High Heels for a New Life in France
by Karen Wheeler
Karen, a fashion editor who comes from an environment that believes that happiness can be found in a new pair of shoes, heads for the Poitou-Charentes in the west of France. Here she meets both French and British suitors while renovating her dilapidated house in a village. This is the first of a series of books which make great summer reading.