Paris is a city of literature. It’s pretty difficult to be a French student and to not have read a book that is either completely set or partially set in the City of Light. In fact it is hard to think of any major writer in the 20th Century that didn’t either live in Paris at some point or visit it. I’m thinking Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Orwell… the list goes on. Before moving here I would search out books that involved this beloved city of mine in order to learn more about its character. I would like to share some of these books with you dear readers. Hopefully they will be new to you but if not I would like to say you have very good taste in novels.
The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy
Termed the Breakfast at Tiffany’s for Paris, this has to be one of my all-time favourite books. In fact the name for this blog was taken from a line in this particular novel. If you are in need of a book that makes you laugh, cry and contemplate your own existence then this is for you. It follows an American girl called Sally Jay Gorce, who vows to go more native than the natives and live life to the extreme in Paris. You follow her on a journey of self-discovery with a few entertaining side-notes along the way. It was loosely based on the author’s own experiences in Paris which lead you to think what a magnificent time she must have had.
From A View To A Kill by Ian Fleming
It would be very lax of me to not include a James Bond story in this selection as many of you know I am a massive fan of Fleming’s writing. This short story of his bears no relation to the classic 80s film featuring Christopher Walken and Grace Jones however that is not to its detriment. Bond has to investigate the murder of a motorcycle dispatch rider which leads to much intrigue. In my humble opinion the James bond novels are so good because they are such a good example of post-war escapism that you can still feel yourself slipping into another world when you read them today.
Bel Ami by Guy de Maupassant
Now for a book set in Paris that is actually in French! Fellow students of ULIP will probably hate me for putting this one on my list as it is one of our studied texts, but hey I like it. Georges Duroy is just scraping by when he bumps into an old army pal who gives him a job on a newspaper where he uses his position (and affairs with his friends’ wives) to move up the social ladder. It is a truly very funny book with some really absurd moments that will leave you questioning why you thought turn of the century literature was dull! But please never watch the film with Robert Pattinson in as it doesn’t do the novel justice.
Pietr the Latvian by Georges Simenon
I read this book very recently and I must admit it might be the best book I have read all year. Many of you may be familiar with the Inspector Maigret stories of which this is the first. I won’t spoil too much of the plot because it is just such a charming read that you need to go to Waterstone’s and buy it now but all I will say is that I may happen to love it so much because his office in the book could be one of the ones that I can see out of the window in my bedroom!
I hope that these recommendations of mine will inspire you to read more literary delights that involve such a poetic place as Paris. Novels set in any location are only truly good when the author knows that city inside out otherwise there is just no integrity to the piece. All four of these certainly make you feel like you are there in the city with the characters at that point in time which I think is what good literature is all about.