France is one of those countries that everyone dreams about – from the romance of Paris to the countryside in Provence and the glitz of the French Riviera. The best way to mentally prepare and get excited for your French vacation is to read these books to read before visiting France!
You’ll find tons of WWII books set in France, but there are so many others as well! I’ve organized these in both WWII books, as well as non-WWII books, depending on your preference!
There are thousands of amazing fiction books set in France, but these are just a few fun ones to start your list.
Headed to Italy on your trip as well? Find great books to read before visiting Italy.
Interesting Fictional WWII Books Set in France
Set in both modern times (as a journalist looks into the past), and WWII, Sarah’s Key is a haunting story about one girl leaving her brother behind in an cabinet in the apartment as the family is herded into the Vel d’Hiv.
With a setting of both Paris and the north of France, All the Light We Cannot See follows Marie-Laure, a blind child whose father works in a museum and is protecting a great secret. It’s a story of love on many levels, and another one that’s pretty impossible to put down. (Though I will say I feel like it started a bit slowly – by the middle, I was hooked.)
One thing I love about so many books set in France in WWII is the number of strong women leads in them. The Nightingale is no exception. It tells the stories of two sisters, and the decisions they make through the war. It’s a good book to give you perspective on how difficult these decisions must have been for the people who lived through the war. And, it shows you a fascinating portrait of what it’s like to live in a country invaded.
Interesting Fictional non-WWII Books Set in France
Set in two narratives, The Alice Network is set in post-WWII era Europe, as well as France during WWI. With the story of a female spy and her network, this is one I think I finished within a day because I couldn’t put it down!
If you’re excited to visit France, and Paris especially; if your Pinterest is filled with pictures of the Eiffel Tower, THIS is the book you must read before you go to Paris. To Capture What We Cannot Keep is a tale of two star-crossed lovers, the Eiffel Tower being built, and Paris in a glorious time. Cannot recommend this one enough!
Hopefully you’ve read it, but if you haven’t, you should! The DaVinci Code has numerous scenes set in France, and especially in the Louvre in Paris. If you love art, and have a long plane ride ahead, this is a great pick. It’s a fast and easy read, and if you remember the craziness it started, you’ll know it’s one that will make you think.
This book is mostly set in Paris (and slightly on the outskirts), and in the modern-day. It’s a fun way to look at the city from a local’s (or 4 locals) lens. Hunting and Gathering is also a sweet story of people being brought together by various circumstances. It’s a great story of the ties that bind us to other people – and how family is created. It was a bestseller in France – so it’ll also give you something to talk about with the locals!
Besides WWII, one of the most interesting time periods for people visiting France is the time just before the French Revolution. It was a time of “Let them eat cake” and the golden age of Versailles. Before Versailles is a fictional story of Louis XIV, bringing you into the realm of French royalty. If you are ready for your tour of Versailles, this is a great book to read to give you more context before you go.
After you read Before Versailles, read The Scarlet Pimpernel. Before Versailles is set before the French Revolution; The Scarlet Pimpernel is set in the madness after the revolution. It’s an absolute classic, and one that you must read before you visit France. It brings the Reign of Terror and the French Revolution to life – so you’ll think of it every time you see the Bastille stop on the Metro.
Set in modern-day Paris, in an upper-class apartment/condo building, this book shows the lives of people who live in Paris. Its plot is a bit slow if you’re wanting a quick/easy airplane read. However, The Elegance of the Hedgehog is a book that will make you think. It’s absolutely rewarding if you stick with it.
If you’re headed to the French Riviera, this novel illuminates that region at the Roaring 20s and the Jazz age. Villa America is a fun read that will take you back in time.
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