escape me to the south of France
August 4, 2022 1:16 PM   Subscribe

Rec me books that will take me awaaaaaay.

Give me your Avignons, your Carcassonnes, your Perpignans. Historical fiction about Popes and kings? Yes please. Ghastly stories about the Albigensian inquisition and plague? Mais oui! Food writing attempting to describe different kinds of cheese and wine? By all means. A highly unlikely romance where a repressed Anglo woman has adventures with a sexy Mediterranean guy in this or any century? Bring it on (although this genre tends to be pretty bad, but a guilty pleasure is still a pleasure.) Whatever it is, if it's engrossing and it's set in the south of France*, I wanna read it. Let's see whatcha got.

(I already read the Destiny of Fire series, recommended in an earlier ask of mine, which was right in the zone, although not exactly a barrel of monkeys.)

*Other regions of France can be considered but I'm not really looking for stuff about Paris.
posted by fingersandtoes to Media & Arts (20 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: edit: nonfiction is fine, history is fine, as long as it's easy to read.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:17 PM on August 4, 2022

Best answer: Peter Mayle's books about living in Provence are a hoot! I loved them. (And you can probably find most of them at your library too.)
posted by Kitteh at 1:25 PM on August 4, 2022 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Guy Gavriel Kay's Ysabel is a total love letter to Aix-en-Provence, where he wrote it. Present-world invaded by fantasy elements and as usual with GGK just a little heartbreaking, but such a lot of it is just a loving exploration of the past and present of the region.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 1:42 PM on August 4, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Duck Season isn't the most thrilling or insightful travel/food memoir you'll ever read, but it definitely fits your bill (Gascony).
posted by praemunire at 2:02 PM on August 4, 2022

Best answer: I have only seen the tv show based on them, but the Verlaque and Bonnet mystery series by M. L. Longworth may be worth a look.
posted by juv3nal at 2:03 PM on August 4, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: IIRC, the second half of Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje is set in southwest France. Ondaatje is an absolutely transportive stylist.
posted by everythings_interrelated at 2:04 PM on August 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner (not strictly the South of France, it's set at Lake Geneva, but the vibe is the right one).

Also this old TV play, L'Elegance. Synopsis: A lonely shop girl from Manchester saves all year for a luxury vacation in France among the rich, using her favorite fashion/lifestyle magazine as a guide to sewing her wardrobe and the manners she thinks are necessary to pass for a wealthy woman. One summer, things take a sudden unexpected turn. (I'm afraid the video quality isn't great, but it's an entertaining play, albeit somewhat dated in its attitudes.)

Also don't overlook Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, which has a long opening section in the South of France. By the time the story moves on from there, you'll be hooked.
posted by essexjan at 2:18 PM on August 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: One each from the 21st, 20th, and 19thC
Felicity Cloake One more croissant for the road [2020]: foodie cycles round the Republic in search of the perfect bun.
Elizabeth David An omelette and a glass of wine.
Daphne du Maurier's The Scapegoat [1957], about body-doubles who swap places, is set entirely in France. Any links would be spoilers.
Robert L. Stephenson's Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes [1879] set the bar for travel books.
posted by BobTheScientist at 2:45 PM on August 4, 2022

Best answer: The Bruno, Chief of Police detective series by Martin Walker is heavy on scenery, history and food.
posted by Clustercuss at 2:52 PM on August 4, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Martin Walker writes a great mystery series set in the Périgord region of France, which is southwest. on preview, ditto, Clustercuss!
posted by epj at 2:57 PM on August 4, 2022

Best answer: The Heatwave by Kate Riordan is really pretty good. Slow-burn summer noir. Lots of authentic local flavor.
posted by BibiRose at 3:03 PM on August 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In the 1950s, Mary Stewart wrote many popular romantic suspense novels set in Europe, Madam Will You Talk and Thunder on the Right are set in southern France, featuring resourceful young women and mysterious, suitably older men.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 3:04 PM on August 4, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Manon Des Sources (Manon of the Spring) by Marcel Pagnol
posted by sjswitzer at 4:36 PM on August 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Olive Farm by Carol Drinkwater
posted by sulaine at 5:01 PM on August 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Elizabeth Bard has written a couple of memoirs, with recipes, about being an expat in France and marrying a Frenchman. The first is Lunch in Paris, but the second one is called Picnic in Provence, written when her family relocates to Provence. I recommend both, even if the second one more explicitly is what you are asking for.

Also, ignore the title and check out Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thornton. The protagonist moves to the Cévennes mountains and the book is as much if not more of a love letter to the place as it is about a slow building romance.

Also check out Notes from the Cévennes: Half a Lifetime in Provincial France by Adam Thorpe.
posted by gudrun at 5:55 PM on August 4, 2022

Best answer: I came to recommend several options and see them all already recommended! So I will make one small caveat- while Ysabel is wonderful, it has characters from his Fionnavar Tapestry trilogy so you may miss some of the resonance. I think it will probably read just fine anyway.
posted by PussKillian at 7:06 PM on August 4, 2022

Best answer: Omg yes Marcel Pagnol. Jean de Florette and Manon des sources are his most famous, but his memoirs La Gloire de mon père and Le Château de ma mère, about summer holidays in the hills outside Marseille at the turn of the last century. He also has a trilogy (Marius, Fanny, César) set in working class Marseille.
posted by basalganglia at 1:25 AM on August 5, 2022

Best answer: I liked French Dirt by Richard Goodman.
posted by OmieWise at 10:02 AM on August 5, 2022

Best answer: I have to place him in a separate answer, because he's so incredible, but Jean Giono is my favorite writer. His work is the most evocative of place of any I know of. His short novel Second Harvest is so perfect as the kind of novel it is, I can't recommend it enough. It's bucolic and French and an obstinate romance. I really like it.
posted by OmieWise at 10:15 AM on August 5, 2022

Best answer: Judith Krantz's Mistral's Daughter and Roberta Gellis 'royal dynasty series

Peter Mayle also wrote Where Did I Come From?
posted by brujita at 4:49 PM on August 5, 2022

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