Earlier this summer, I gathered together a stack of books about France to inspire me as I wrote my novel set in Provence. In June, I lengthened the list and jumped on the 20 Books of Summer reading challenge bandwagon. The collection included novels and memoirs and I made a few substitutions along the way. It was fun to spend the summer dreaming about life in the French countryside.
Results of the Challenge
Overall, I’d say the challenge went well. I didn’t read all 20 books but the books I did read were the most relevant to what I wanted out of the list, information and inspiration about Provençal life. I’m glad I read Elizabeth Bard’s Picnic in Provence, Richard Goodman’s French Dirt, and Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence. They taught me much about the culture and people. Plus, I love all three of those writers’ voices. Deborah Lawrenson’s The Lantern was a highlight as was her mystery Death in Provence, written under the pen name Serena Kent. By the way, I’ve got an interview with Deborah appearing in the next few weeks.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to the two Marcel Pagnol classics, Jean de Florette and Manon of the Spring. I felt disappointed about that since those stories were the initial inspiration for my book. (I have seen the movies more than once.) Those stories are also a big reason Provence became famous in its own right. But I’ve moved them to my nightstand now so all’s well. The final book I’d like to get to before I complete edits on my novel is Anita Hughes’s French Coast though the setting there is the coast and not the countryside’s interior. But I think it contains features that match my novel’s story so I’m curious.
In the end, I didn’t meet the challenge but I did accomplish a lot. I read 10 books and wrote a novel. Good enough for now. Here’s the updated list.
- Picnic in Provence by Elizabeth Bard, Read!
- Swimming Home by Deborah Levy, Read!
- Jean de Florette by Marcel Pagnol, Missed.
- Manon of the Spring by Marcel Pagnol, Missed.
- French Dirt by Richard Goodman, Read! (
for Not Quite Nice by Celia Imrie)
- The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson, Read!
- The Olive Farm by Carol Drinkwater, Missed.
- The Baker’s Secret by Stephen P. Kiernan, Missed.
- The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted by Bridget Asher, Read!
- Ten Trees and a Truffle Dog by Jamie Ivey, Missed.
- The Promise of Provence by Patricia Sands, Read!
- Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard, Read!
- L’Appart by David Lebovitz, Read!
- A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle, Read!
- Death in Provence by Serena Kent, Read! (
for Death at the Chateau Bremont by M.L. Longworth)
- Murder in the Rue Dumas by M.L. Longworth, Missed.
- The Mystery of the Lost Cezanne by M. L. Longworth, Missed.
- Pietr the Latvian by Georges Simenon, Missed.
- French Coast by Anita Hughes, Read some but didn’t complete.
- The Bar on the Seine by Georges Simenon, Missed.
For my list of favorite memoirs about life in France in general, click here.
This summer I’m writing a novel set in Provence so I’ve been dreaming about France. Since I already have a stack of books to inspire me, I thought I’d lengthen my list and join this summer’s 20 Books of Summer event. My books include both fiction and nonfiction set in Provence or elsewhere in France.
- Picnic in Provence by Elizabeth Bard
- Swimming Home by Deborah Levy
- Jean de Florette by Marcel Pagnol
- Manon of the Spring by Marcel Pagnol
- Not Quite Nice by Celia Imrie
- The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson
- The Olive Farm by Carol Drinkwater
- The Baker’s Secret by Stephen P. Kiernan
- The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted by Bridget Asher
- Ten Trees and a Truffle Dog by Jamie Ivey
- The Promise of Provence by Patricia Sands
- Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard
- L’Appart by David Lebovitz
- A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle
- Death at the Chateau Bremont by M.L. Longworth
- Murder in the Rue Dumas by M.L. Longworth
- The Mystery of the Lost Cezanne by M. L. Longworth
- Pietr the Latvian by Georges Simenon
- French Coast by Anita Hughes
- The Bar on the Seine by Georges Simenon
If you like what you read, please subscribe to my newsletter. Every month I send an update about new posts, books, gardening, travel, and what I’m writing.