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35 Books Set in France So You Feel Like You’re There

As much as we all love traveling around the world, unfortunately, sometimes it’s just not possible. In these annoying times, we can turn our attention to books. Through these stories – either fiction or non-fiction – we can escape into foreign and far-off lands. 

So, with that in mind, here is my list of 35 books set in France so you feel like you’re there. Get your Amazon wishlist ready and let’s dive in!

1. Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo

Whether you’ve actually read this incredibly long book, or have watched the sanitized Disney animated version, you probably already know the rough storyline of The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo and the iconic characters of Quasimodo, Esmeralda, and the dastardly Count Frollo.

Following the tales of outcasts in the heart of Paris set against the tyrannous Count Frollo, the Hunchback of Notre Dame is all about the outcasts and unrequited love. After all, Quasimodo loves Esmeralda, but she doesn’t return his love, so he attempts to protect her from the safety of his bell tower. 

2. Dangerous Liaisons by Pierre Choderlos De Laclos

Commonly referred to as one of the best French books ever written, Dangerous Liaisons follows two aristocrats as they play games with the objects of their desires, manipulate people, and slowly go to increasingly dark lengths to get what they want. 

One of the exciting things about this book is that it’s an epistolary novel, meaning that it’s written as a series of letters back and forth. It’s a really exciting read as you see the inner workings of both these manipulative people’s minds. 

3. The Queen Of Paris: A Novel Of Coco Chanel by Pamela Binnings Ewen

Is there a more iconic French woman than Coco Chanel? This utterly fictional book by Pamela Binnings Ewen dives into what Coco’s personal and work life could’ve been like if her business and legacy were on the line. 

Threatened by her former business partner who has fled Paris with the formula of her iconic Chanel No. 5 perfume, Coco must do whatever it takes to regain control of her company and her legacy. It’s definitely important to remember that this is fiction and there are plenty of non-fiction biographies of Coco Chanel if that’s what you’re looking for. 

4. A Tales of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Split between London and Paris as the titular two cities, one of Charles Dickens’ most famous books provides historical travel inspiration for both major European capital cities. Follow Sydney Carton and Charles Darnay as they navigate love and society in the years around the French Revolution.

The two gentlemen, one English, and one French, become intertwined when they both fall in love with Lucie Manette, with what turns out to be tragic consequences. This book is beautiful and emotional, and features some of the greatest lines in modern literature, including “It is a far, far better thing that I do than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known”.

5. The Little Vineyard In Provence by Ruth Kelly

Ava isn’t having the best time at the start of The Little Vineyard in Provence. She’s struggling, she’s in debt, and feeling very lost. So, when she receives the simultaneously good and bad news that her grandfather has died and she’s inherited a vineyard in Provence, things are looking up.

Will she sell the vineyard? Will she keep it and live out her grandfather’s dream? Will she fall in love with the charming local waiter? It’s a cute holiday read that will have you researching the cheapest wineries for sale in the area. 

6. The Last Duel: A True Story Of Crime, Scandal, and Trial by Combat By Eric Jager

TW: Rape

Recently adapted into a blockbuster movie by Ridley Scott, The Last Duel is based on the real-life historical incident that surrounded the final trial by combat in France back in the 14th century. It has a lot of very intense plot points that might be triggering for some people, so be aware of this.

So, when a Norman knight accuses a squire of raping his wife, the knight goes directly to the King to challenge the decision of the count who made the initial ruling. The result? A trial by combat with obviously deadly consequences. 

7. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

The vast majority of people will have either seen the Oscar-winning film musical adaptation, or the stage show of Les Miserables, but few people will have actually read Victor Hugo’s original book version.

Look, I’m going to be honest, it’s not the most thrilling read purely because Hugo has a tendency to over-describe the Paris sewage system. That probably helps to explain why the book is so incredibly long. That being said, it does tell the story of a whole host of different Parisian characters set against the backdrop of the French Revolution. 

8. The Little French Bistro by Nina George

If you’re looking for an easy holiday read, you might want to pick up The Little French Bistro by Nina George. After leaving an unhappy marriage in Paris, Marianne moves to coastal Brittany, in the north of France, and opens a small bistro. 

Marianne meets interesting and eccentric local people who bring joy into her life, and she discovers that after 41 years of marriage, it’s never too soon to start again.

9. Imogen by Jilly Cooper

Jilly Cooper is loved all around the world for her scandalous and raunchy books, normally set in glitzy and glamorous locations. Imogen is no different. The story follows the titular Imogen as she joins a couple on a trip away to the French Riviera. 

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Along the way, she meets tennis pros, models, rich playboys, and millionaires, giving scathing and honest reviews of them all! It’s a fun book that pokes fun at all the classic stereotypes that come with life in the south of France. 

10. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

If you’re after an emotional novel that’s set during the Parisian occupation in World War II, then you need to check out All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. In fact, this book is so popular that Netflix is currently adapting it for the small screen! 

The story follows a young blind French girl and her father during the 1940s in Paris, as they hide from the Nazis in a walled city. At the same time, the story follows a young German orphan called Werner whose life starts to collide with the French girl and her father. It’s massively emotional and a story that’ll definitely stay with you for years to come. 

11. A Waiter in Paris: Adventures in the Dark Heart of the City by Edward Chisholm

Looking for an autobiographical memoir about what it’s like to live and work in Paris? Well then, A Waiter in Paris: Adventures in the Dark Heart of the City by Edward Chisholm is bound to tick all your boxes.

Along the way, you’ll discover the seedy underbelly of the French capital, the mistreatment of hospitality staff, and the competitive world of being a waiter in Paris at the time.

Despite all the darkness in this amazing and honest memoir, Chisholm also explains how, despite everything, there was nowhere else in the world that he’d rather be than in beautiful, complicated, and romantic Paris

12. One More Croissant for the Road by Felicity Cloake

Let’s be honest, one of the best things about visiting France has to be the amazing food and drink. So, if you want to feel simultaneously inspired and hungry, check out One More Croissant for the Road by Felicity Cloake.

Cloake is a food journalist for a major UK newspaper, so when it comes to great food, she knows her stuff. This book follows her 2,300km cycle journey throughout France, trying all the delicacies and iconic dishes and pastries along the way. It’s a delicious read, but you’ll want to make sure that you have a snack to hand…

13. The Riviera Set by Mary S. Lovell

It’s pretty rare to get a biography of a whole group of people who aren’t a band, but that’s exactly what The Riviera Set is. Set at the Château de l’Horizon near Cannes over the course of 40 years from the 1920s to the 1960s, this grand and glamorous place plays host to playboys, politicians, royals, and fashionistas, all partying their way through life.

Throughout the course of the book, Mary S. Lovell dives into famous residents and visitors that include the Windsors, Prince Aly Khan, Daisy Fellowes, Noel Coward, and even Winston Churchill during the thirties. It’s a glitzy look at what the French Riviera was like for the social elite in the early-to-mid 20th century. 

14. Chocolat by Joanne Harris

So, you’ve probably seen the Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp film of the same name, but you might not have read the book, Chocolat by Joanne Harris. Following the story of a woman who opens a chocolate shop in a religious and conservative small town in France during Lent with her daughter, Chocolat is an irresistible read about desire, dreams, and why fitting in isn’t always the answer.

Along the way, Vianne, the owner of the shop, meets the elusive and mysterious Roux, a gypsy traveler, Armande, an older woman looking to form a relationship with her estranged grandchild, and many more eccentric and complex characters. 

15. Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan

Probably one of the most amazing things about this book is that it was written when Sagan was just 18 years old, was immediately accepted by the publishers, and is now considered one of the top 100 books of the last century

It follows the life of a 17-year-old girl on the French Riviera who goes to live with her father for the summer. Once there, she discovers that he’s having a relationship with two separate women, one who wants to be more of a mother to her. The consequences soon turn dark and tragic.

16. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

Follow the iconic tale of Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, as they’re joined by the young upstart D’Artagnan, with the ultimate goal of protecting the French King and royal family. Although there have been dozens of adaptations over the years, taking the time to read the original novel is always a good idea.

It has everything. Romance, extravagance, action, betrayal, elaborate revenge plots, and a whole host of humor thrown in for good measure. There’s a reason that it’s stood the test of time and has so many movie versions in circulation!

17. My Life in France by Julia Child

If you’re not aware of who Julia Child is, she was an eccentric American TV chef and cookbook author who moved to France with her husband who was a US diplomat. While she was there, she found she had too much time on her hands so she decided to go to a French cookery school and the rest is history.

My Life in France is the autobiography of this culinary and TV icon and is full of amazing anecdotes, recipe tips, and insights into what it was like to be an expat in France in the late 1940s.

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18. Summer at the Vineyard by Fliss Chester

Have you ever wanted to leave everything behind and work in a French vineyard? Well, in Fliss Chester’s Summer in the Vineyard, the main character, Jenna Jenkins, gets fired from her job and decides to take up a job at a vineyard in the heart of France. 

She parties, she works, she drinks. It sounds like a great time… until she falls into a trap that only a mysterious stranger can help her out of. But the question is, why does this stranger feel so familiar?

19. A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle

If you’re thinking about moving to France and getting yourself a slice of the good life, you absolutely have to read Peter Mayle’s autobiographical tale. He and his wife bought an old farmhouse in Provence that’s over 200 years old, where they plan to settle down and start a new life. 

Follow along with Peter and his wife as they try and adapt to life in rural France, and see what life is really like as an expat living in a 200-year-old farmhouse that surely needs repairs over the first year!

20. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

Love mystery, symbolism, and a potential entanglement with the Holy Grail? Well then, you need to check out Dan Brown’s international bestseller The Da Vinci Code. Follow symbolist and academic Robert Langdon – played by the wonderful Tom Hanks in the film adaptation – as he tries to uncover a series of puzzles and a mysterious plot to find the Holy Grail.

During the search, he finds himself in Paris after a gruesome murder at the Louvre. After meeting a French cryptologist Sophie, Langdon is taken all around Paris and wider France, so the city is definitely a big feature of this story. 

21. Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

Let’s be honest, Madeline is an absolute children’s classic. Whether you’ve read the book as a child or have seen one of the many film adaptations, you might recognize the story of Madeline, who goes to a school with boater hats where everyone walks in two straight lines. 

Madeline is the smallest of the girls and somehow gets into all kinds of trouble, with adventure always seeming to find her. It’s a beautiful story, set in Paris, that will make you feel instantly nostalgic. 

22. The Embroidered Book by Kate Heartfield

If you’re looking for historical fiction with a slice of magic and fantasy, then you need to check out The Embroidered Book by Kate Heartfield. It follows sisters Charlotte and Antoine from the Hapsburg Empire as they’re sent off to opposite countries to marry. Charlotte is sent to Naples, and Antoine to the palace in Versailles. 

The story shows the struggle of sisterhood, trying to find their place in a new country and a new royal system, and how they slowly become more and more competitive with each other across Europe.

23. The Vine Witch by Luanne G. Smith

If you love books that combine wine, magic, and French revenge plots, then The Vine Witch is going to be right up your street. In a French valley where the quality of the wine is controlled by enchantments, magic, and cursing your competitors, grudges play a huge role in society.

So, when Elena, one of the witches goes missing – after being turned into a toad – her vineyard is taken over by a man of science. Once Elena returns to human form, she has revenge on her mind for the witch who cursed her and she wants her vineyard back. 

24. Tender is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald

It’s no secret that F Scott Fitzgerald loved all things French, having lived there for years with his wife Zelda. Tender is the Night is set in the thriving French Riviera during the Jazz Age. There are tons of parties and amazing descriptions of the fancy spots along the waterfront, so you can really feel like you’re there

It follows the story of Dick Diver, who, aside from having an excellent name, is a psychiatrist to the Riviera set. Things get a little bit more complicated throughout the book between Nick, his wife Nicole, and one of his patients…

25. The Garden of Eden by Ernest Hemingway

Interestingly enough, this novel by Ernest Hemingway is actually one of a couple of his unfinished novels that he started, took on other projects, and didn’t finish before he died. Set in the French Riviera, The Garden of Eden follows a couple who go on their honeymoon and both fall in love with a random woman they meet while they’re there. 

It’s a super interesting read with both main characters pretending to be in the honeymoon period while their relationship slowly falls apart. Remember though – it is still unfinished, so don’t be surprised by the ending!

26. The Last Letter from Your Lover by Jojo Moyes

You might know Jojo Moyes for her smash hit Me Before You, but another of her books, The Last Letter from Your Lover, takes place over two time periods and two amazing locations. The first follows a glamorous but unhappy wife who is spending time on the French Riviera in the 1960s, and the other is a journalist in London in modern times.

While the wife tries to remember what happened leading up to her car accident, having found unusual love letters around her apartments, the journalist finds the same letters in a mixed-up folder in the newspaper’s archive. Together they try and piece it all together and reunite the secret lovers. 

27. Maigret on the Riviera by Georges Simenon

If you love murder mysteries and detective stories, then you’ll have to give Maigret on the Riviera a read. The character of Maigret has been used in many books by Georges Simenon and has been adapted into a series with Rowan Atkinson aka Mr Bean.

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This particular outing has Mr. Maigret on the French Riviera checking out a mysterious case which is definitely more dastardly than it first appears. But which of the various characters and holidaymakers know more than they’re letting on? Maigret will surely find out!

28. The Loveliest Chocolate Shop In Paris by Jenny Colgan

In this sweet novel, you follow Anna as she leaves her life in dreary England to work in one of the finest chocolate shops in the whole of Paris. It’s a dream job, except for the fact that her boss is actually her ex-boyfriend. Not ideal.

So, over the course of the book, we see Anna not only adapt to her new life in Paris but also deal with having to spend constant time around her ex-boyfriend and boss Thierry. 

29. The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz

Love pastries? Love Paris? Want to find out about what it’s like to live there? Then The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz is going to be for you. After visiting Paris, David had always one day wanted to live in the French capital.

As a pastry chef and cookbook author, being in Paris must be the perfect place to move to, but as David discovers, there are some pretty huge differences between his dream and reality. 

30. The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

Who hasn’t dreamed of running away and starting their own bookshop? Escape into the fantasy with The Little Paris Bookshop. Follow Jean as she runs her beautiful book barge on the gorgeous banks of the Seine in Paris. 

It seems like Jean has a talent for seeing exactly what each of her customers needs, but she can’t use her talent on herself. However, the arrival of a handsome neighbor might change all of that.

31. My Grape Year by Laura Bradbury

Want to read an autobiographical account about the ups and downs of living on a French vineyard as an expat? Laura Bradbury’s My Grape Year is going to tick all of your boxes! When she was 17, Laura was sent on a last-minute exchange from Canada to France. 

She doesn’t know much French, and she doesn’t know a whole lot about wine, but Laura is eager to learn. The only stipulation that her hosts have is that she shouldn’t date, but when Franck from the local town enters the scene, will that rule get broken?

32. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Looking for a classic revenge tale that has stood the test of time? The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas is actually based on a real-life story. Our protagonist, Edmond Dantes, is all ready to get married and live happily ever after – sounds good, right? Except he’s betrayed. 

Two men plot to imprison him in a fortress on an island off the coast of Marseille for 14 years. When he’s finally set free, Edmond has one thing on his mind – revenge! 

33. The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais

This beautiful book has been adapted into a film with Dame Helen Mirren in it and it’s so heartwarming. It follows the story of an Indian family who fled their home and restaurant after it was burned down, killing the mother. They try to find a perfect place before settling in rural France opposite a Michelin-starred French restaurant. 

There is a series of pranks and back and forth as each restaurant tries to get its revenge on the other. Eventually, it turns out that one of the sons, Hassan, is a world-class cook with a bright future ahead of him. It’s an amazing tale about belonging, using your potential, and embracing each other’s differences

34. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

If you want to read a story about the French occupation in World War II from the perspective of the women who would have lived through it, check out The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. The story follows two sisters who get separated during the occupation and shows the different paths that they find themselves.

It’s an intense and beautiful book that shows just how courageous the women of the time were and how humans will do just about anything to survive. 

35. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

If I asked you what you knew about Ernest Hemingway’s wife, you’d probably say not very much, but The Paris Wife is all about Hadley Richardson, Hemingway’s Wife, during the 1920s when they were living in Paris.

Of course, as Hemingway’s social circle gets larger and more raucous, Richardson fights to keep her place in his life, and this biography charts the highs and lows of their marriage and how Richardson felt about Hemingway’s genius and his exploits. 

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