I’m heading to Paris for new year and I can’t wait.
As you know, I like to pair my reading list with the place I’m travelling to in order to explore the city through the eyes of its authors or fictional characters.
To build my reading list for Paris, I turned to the experts over at TripFiction. Here’s what they recommended.
Paris is one of the cities that is captured time and again in literature, there is something magical and appealing about the layout, the people, the food (of course), and sometimes even the light feels like a gift to the city.
There are many traditional books one might choose for a visit to the city in order to gain a deeper understanding of the surroundings, and really bring a story to life. Top of the list are often Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, and Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, which hit the bestseller list late 2015 after the Paris attacks, full of sketches of a Paris full of life and joy.
Dan Brown’s thriller The Da Vinci Code is also often cited as a must-read book, as it is part set in the city and takes the reader behinds the scenes of the Louvre.
Almost every day new books are published that have Paris as a strong background setting, so here are just a few that really evoke the city.
Cara Black has written a series of light mysteries, featuring her lead character Aimée LeDuc who sleuths her way around the Paris Arrondissements. She is often the go-to author for books set in Paris, as she details each area’s unique setting so that it is eminently recognisable to the reader.
The Ingredients of Love by Nicolas Barreau is, again, a much-chosen novel to savour the delights of the City of Light. It is a Comédie-Francaise of love and intrigue, with a smattering of food to make your mouth water.
Paris Spring by James Naughtie is a classic Cold War spy thriller, set in Paris of 1968 (and part set in Scotland), when student revolt was gathering pace, and no-one could be trusted. There is a wonderful scene set in the Cimitière Père-Lachaise where the great and the good are buried, and is a perfect backdrop for the unfolding events.
Arab Jazz by Karim Miské (translated by Sam Gordon) is a murder mystery that largely takes place in the 19th Arrondissment, an area to the north of the centre, and a little off the main tourist map. It’s a place where Islamists live alongside orthodox Jews. The two exist peacefully side by side, pretty much ignoring each other (except when some youths form a cross-cultural hip-hop group, or when – a little later in life – they join together in drug dealing activity…). It’s an interesting read of hidden Paris life and culture (it also hops to Brooklyn).
A Week in Paris by Rachel Hore. A compelling story of war, secrets, family and history that will draw you into the heart of Paris and its troubled past. From Paris, 1937 to the early ‘60s it is a compelling story of war, secrets, family and history that will draw you into the heart of Paris and its troubled past.
The Paris Secret by Karen Swann is an intriguing story of family and secrets (set in stunning locations across the city and part set Antibes). Somewhere along the cobbled streets of Paris, an apartment lies thick with dust and secrets: full of priceless artworks hidden away for decades. High-flying fine art agent Flora from London is tasked with cataloguing the items but she has no notion of the complex family dynamics that will assault her to the very core.
Well, that’s quite a list! I’m only in town for three days so I better get reading in advance and savour my favourites for a few blissful hours on a pavement cafe with a warm cup of coffee. Ah, can I go now please?