My Top 5 Favourite French Novels

This week, I thought I’d combine my two loves: languages and reading and let you know what my favourite French language books are. If you’re learning French, it might give you some inspiration of what to read next to further your language skills!

  1. Thérèse Racquin
    This was the first novel in French that I ever read. I actually chose to read it before my interview for the University of Cambridge, as my sister had given it to me. As luck would have it, it was on the course for my first year!

Thérèse Racquin follows the life of the titular character. After the death of her parents, she is forced to move in with her aunt and cousin and confined to the shop her aunt owns. Her life is entrenched in misery until she embarks on an affair.

An intensely scientific novel, by the author’s own admission, despite being a 19th century novel, the language is very accessible and the plot is highly readable.

2. Ourika
Another 19th century novel, Ourika was one of the set texts in my second year and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Once again, Ourika follows the life of the eponymous character. Ourika is a former slave who is bought by a rich family and grows up among them as one of the family. Her life is entrenched in sorrow, however, as she tries to fit into a society where she is constantly told that she doesn’t belong.

Sad, but honest, Ourika is a striking look into the reality of life in the changing world of post-colonial France.

3. L’armée du salut
This time, I have a more modern novel to share with you. I picked up this French language book during my time in Morocco.

Written in 2006, L’armée du salut is a novel-come-memoir exploring the author’s life and experiences as a homosexual in Morocco, who eventually moves to France.

A fascinating insight into the LGBT community in Morocco and France.

4. No et Moi
After working with a student who was reading this novel, I decided to give it a go and was not disappointed.

5. Le bleu est une couleur chaude
In some respects, this could be a great first read if you’re yet to tackle reading in French. As a graphic novel, it is a little easier to read than a full-on novel. I came to it after the hype around the film version Blue is the Warmest Colour came out.

Le bleu est une couleur chaude follows the life of a teenager, Clémentine, in the 90s and early 00s, as she explores her burgeoning sexuality.

Real and relatable, with beautiful illustrations, Le bleu est une couleur chaude is a fantastic read.

This was a hard list to compile, so some of my honorable mentions are:

  • Histoire d’O
  • La cote 400

What’s your favourite French-language book (even in translation)? Let me know in the comments!

Published by verityroat

Verity Roat BA CANTAB MA TRANSLATION CIOL Career Associate is a UK-based Arabic and French > English translator, Copy-writer, Copy-editor, Transcriber, Role-player & Tutor.

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