Happy Bastille Day!


Not far from where I live is the Chateau de Voltaire, where the great man lived for about 20 years, when he was banished from Paris and Geneva for his inability to put up and shut up.  Voltaire was also imprisoned twice in the Bastille, so today’s celebrations of the Fall of the Bastille would have gladdened his heart.  I hope the weather holds and the fireworks, dancing, music and theatre will take place as planned in the grounds of his estate.  He would have rejoiced to see children playing, couples flirting and sipping champagne, poetry being recited down the shadey paths. After all, he is not only the champion of social justice, tolerance and anti-mumbo-jumbo, but also the man who said:

Let us read and let us dance – two amusements that will never do any harm to the world.


If you are an admirer of French philosophy and literature and want to celebrate the 14th of July with fiction, here are some recently-released English translations or  novels set in France which you might enjoy. It has often been said that French literature and French films are an acquired taste for English-speaking audiences, but the mix below is a really painless introduction:

1) Sylvie Granotier: The Paris Lawyer

Sylvie Granotier is a former actress now turned full-time writer of thrillers, well-respected in France.  You can find a full review of this interesting, atypical crime fiction novel on the Crime Fiction Lover website.

2) Fred Vargas

This is the pseudonym of a French historian and archaelogist and I have probably mentioned her before (and will do again).  Her crime fiction books are always surprising, unusual, with historical and supernatural element, always unsettling me (in a good way).  She has two series – the Commissaire Adamsberg that more closely resemble police procedurals, and the Three Evangelists, about three friends who share a house. If you don’t mind reading books out of order, then ‘Seeking Whom He May Devour’ and ‘Have Mercy on Us All’ are probably good ones to start with.


3) Cathy Ace: The Corpse with the Silver Tongue

A debut novel by a Welsh/Canadian writer but set on the Côte d’Azure, this is a delightful cosy mystery and romp through pâté de foie gras and champagne for breakfast, cross-cultural misunderstandings and glamorous locations.  I will have a full review of it next week on the Crime Fiction Lover website.

4) Janet Hubbard: Champagne- The Farewell

Another one for foodie and drink fans, this is essentially manor house mystery set in the Champagne region of France. When an attractive French magistrate and a dynamic NYPD detective find themselves thrown together to solve a murder at a mutual friend’s wedding, sparks are bound to fly!

5) Muriel Barbery: The Elegance of the Hedgehog

This has been a runaway bestseller in France since it first came out in 2006, but the English translation has not done as well.  It is a controversial book, with not much in the way of plot, except the friendship between the concierge of an apartment building and a twelve-year old girl, both alienated, over-sensitive souls.  It’s the kind of book you either love or you hate, full of literary and philosophical allusions, yet not pretentious.  Definitely worth a try!


8 thoughts on “Happy Bastille Day!”

  1. Marina, I just bought The Paris Lawyer for my nook. I liked the review you wrote on it at Crime Fiction Lovers. I thought I would give French crime writers a try. 🙂
    (Unfortunately, I couldn’t get it through the link provided on that website, since I am from the U.S.–wondering if they use affiliate links??)
    Anyway, I’m excited to try it. Though, I have to finish the book I am currently reading. Until then . . .

    1. Wow, I’m so pleased and honoured that you’ve been influenced by my review. Do let me know what you think of it! Yes, I’m just discovering that the .com and co.uk sites of Amazon don’t really talk to each other all that well – which is not great for reviews or buying links or anything like that, is it?

      1. No, it’s not good if like that website you reviewed it at uses an affiliate link–I was a purchasing customer, and they ended up getting nothing for it. I always try to click the links that first led me to the thing I’m going to purchase, because I like to give credit where credit is due. I guess it’s just something to think about if you are going to use affiliate links.
        And yes, I will totally let you know what I think. 🙂

  2. I never knew anything about Bastille Day until, quite by coincidence, my wife, Ellen, and I got married on July 14.

    I work at a high school, so every French teacher was beside herself with joy.

    It seems only right that Ellen and I go to France to celebrate our anniversary one year soon. When we do, we will have to visit the Chateau de Voltaire. Gorgeous!

    1. Thanks for stopping by! A proper (full) review of it will be up nearer the time of its official launch on the Crime Fiction Lover website, so do visit there as well.

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