I love reading books set anywhere in the world, but MAN I really like books set in France. I also really, really love historical fiction set in France, and almost all of the titles on this list would qualify as historical fiction.
While I am, admittedly, partial to WW2 books, there are a variety of time periods represented in this list of books set in France. And there are a couple books that are definitely not historical fiction! These books all have great plots, good writing, and were just overall really engaging reads!
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Here are my favorite 18 books set in France:
1. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, by V.E. Schwab
In a provincial French village in 1714, Adeline makes a deal with the devil to get out of a compulsory marriage to someone she does not love. However, she is not careful with the terms of the bargain, and is forgotten by everyone she knows. Further, anyone she meets will not remember her after they awake the next day.
Thus, Adeline (now, Addie) roams France and the world, figuring out how to navigate a world where no one remembers you (it makes it hard to hold a job or rent an apartment when you’re forgotten the next morning!).
Every year, Luc, the devil she made the bargain with, comes to visit her, and try to tempt her to give up. Addie wanders, “invisible,” until she meets a young man in a bookstore who actually remembers her name the next day.
Although Addie moves through many time periods in her life, I wouldn’t categorize this one as historical fiction – as the time period or historical events was not a major player in this book.
While sometimes slow-moving, the plot of Addie LaRue drew me in. It was unique and interesting and I couldn’t wait to see how the different conflicts would resolve!
2. The Book of Lost Names, by Kristin Harmel
In The Book of Lost Names, Eva and her mother escape from Paris right before they were supposed to be rounded up and deported. They escape to a small town in southern France, where they assume new identities and begin to help the French resistance forge new documents so Jewish children can escape France.
As these children are usually being smuggled out without their parents, Eva is concerned that these children’s real names will be lost forever, so she invents a code to list the children’s names in an unassuming book.
This book has the terror of WW2 French occupation, the courage of resistance work, romance, and a lot of bravery. I thought it was an interesting look into one very specific way the French resistance worked in the war.
3. Serpent and Dove, by Shelby Mahurin
This book is fantasy-meets-witches, a sub-genre that I’ll admit I haven’t read much of! Louise le Blanc has fled her coven and is living below the radar in Cesarine, not using magic, and just trying to stay alive.
This is complicated by the fact that not only does she not want to be found by her coven, but witches are hunted mercilessly in Cesarine by the Chasseurs. If captured, they are burned.
So when Louise keeps running into one Chasseur, Reid, and then gets tricked and compelled into marrying him on the spot, life gets, well, complicated.
This book had so many twists and turns, and was both funny and appropriately tense. The relationships between characters were particularly fun to read.
4. Three Hours In Paris, by Cara Black
This book is a work of fiction surrounding one true event: Hitler’s visit to Paris in 1940. While his 3 hour trip happened, the story of Kate Rees, the sharpshooter dropped in France and tasked with assassinating him, was imagined by the author.
Kate fails in her assassination attempt (not a spoiler, happens in the first 10 pages), and a big manhunt and investigation ensues. We follow her throughout Paris as she tries to make contact with other underground or resistance members and has to think quickly to figure out what to do and where to go next. Lots of twists and turns ensue – the book is incredibly fast-paced!
The story alternates between Kate’s POV, that of a German detective tasked with finding her, and occasionally that of her British handler back in England.
I really liked the plot and the way the author pulled Kate deeper and deeper into the resistance.
5. Code Name Hélène, by Ariel Lawhon
I always love a good WW2 book and this one felt like a fresh story – to me at least. I’ve read many books set in France and several about spies in France, but I really had no idea about the vastness of the French resistance army.
From other books I read, it seemed like the resistance was just smaller, very separate groups, and that was certainly true. However, this book focused on the thousands and thousands of men in a so-called army spread out in the Cantal region. I certainly had not realized the scope, size, and organization of the resistance army!
I enjoyed reading about the main character, Hélène/Nancy, and how she was the British operative that organized, outfitted, and essentially commanded these groups of resistance fighters.
I loved it even more when I read the author’s note at the end and saw that Nancy was actually a real person, and that almost all of the events and characters in the book were real, with only minor liberties taken in the novel.
This is one of my very favorite books set in France!
6. The Poppy Wife, by Caroline Scott
The Poppy Wife, while focusing on one woman and one family, really feels like it tells the story of thousands of women in the aftermath of World War I.
Edie’s husband, Francis, was declared “missing, presumed dead” during WW1. His brother, Harry, saw him get hit in the chest and taken to an aid station, but somehow, Francis was never processed and his body was never recovered.
Four years after the war, Edie receives an unmarked letter in the mail, with a picture of an older Francis in it. Thus begins Edie’s search, with Harry, for what really happened to her husband, and if he could be alive somewhere in France.
This adjective may be overused, but the only way to describe this book is “haunting.” So many men were marked “missing, presumed dead,” in WW1, with their families having no idea what actually happened to them or where their bodies were laid to rest.
This story really transmitted emotion and feeling exceptionally well. I was pulled in to the grief and loss and unknown that so many women and families were feeling in that time period following the Great War.
7. The Queen’s Fortune, by Allison Pataki
This is quite a different type of historical fiction books set in France than the other war novels on this list!
The Queen’s Fortune centers around Desiree Clary. She dated Napoleon Bonaparte before his rise to power, and her sister and his brother married, and their families became forever entwined.
She is an insider in Napoleon’s world, and is intimately connected with the ruling class at the time. Eventually, she marries Napoleon’s chief general. As such, we see many glimpses into the social life and political intrigue of Napoleon’s time.
The whole thing was just so absorbing, and the details so interesting! Napoleon was such a prominent figure in world history, and to understand the time period from the perspective of Desiree, a close friend and important figure in her own right, was so intriguing.
8. The Passions of Dolssa, by Julie Berry
The Passions of Dolssa was so unlike any of the other books set in France, in the best way possible.
Dolssa is a teenage girl in Europe in the 1200’s. She claims to be in contact with Jesus, her beloved, and apparently they have a somewhat romantic relationship, and she says that Jesus comes and speaks to her.
While this does seem odd, she is a loving, kind, and level-headed girl (basically, the book is not setting her up to be crazy and these types of claims were not uncommon in this time period.)
However, she is labeled as a heretic by the inquisition, sentenced to death, escapes, and is taken in and hidden by two girls in a faraway town.
Dolssa lays low for a while, but she also has a miraculous healing power. When she discreetly heals a child, talk of her powers spread quickly and people flock to her for healing. Of course, this also sets the inquisition back on her tail, and things start to get real sticky real fast.
The narration switches between several of the characters, and each character is so well-written, the character arcs so intriguing, the relationships between characters so genuine, and the plot so engaging, that it was hard to put down.
9. French Kids Eat Everything, by Karen Le Billon
In this memoir, Karen moves with her French husband and children from Canada to France, in the same city as her in-laws. She quickly realizes that French food habits are very different from Canadian habits, especially where children are concerned.
While at first she pushes back at the French way of eating, eventually she accepts and embraces the so-called food rules of French families, including not eating snacks, and eating slowly and more pleasurably. Children all eat at the cafeteria at school, and real fresh-cooked meals with a vast variety of ingredients are used, with meals served on real plates and cutlery.
And, unsurprisingly, children who live in this set of parameters tended to all be exceptionally good eaters.
While there were some things that I thought were taken too far (not allowing drinks of water between meals, or not feeding an infant on demand), in general, this was a fascinating look at a whole different culture of eating (and habits that I could certainly stand to implement more!)
10. Last Christmas in Paris: A Novel of World War I, by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb
As WW1 breaks out in 1914, Evie sends her brother, Will, and his best friend, Thomas, off to war. The friends believe the war will be over before the end of the year, and make plans to meet up in Paris at Christmas.
This book is told in epistolary style, with letters between the three young people. While the letters between Evie and Thomas start out formal and very platonic, over the course of the war they become deeper and a romantic connection starts to blossom.
We see what Will and Thomas are going through at the front, and what Evie is doing to find a place to contribute meaningfully to the war effort back home.
While I don’t always love epistolary books, this one absolutely captured my heart and attention!
11. Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier
This is the only of the books set in France on this list that is a thriller (my tolerance for anything scary is laughably low), but I have to say, Rebecca was a delightfully creepy, mysterious book.
While this book certainly had elements of suspense and psychological thriller, it did not break my low threshold for scariness.
The protagonist, who stays unnamed during the entire book, is working as a lady’s maid in Monte Carlo, when she is swept off her feet by the kind but mysterious and quiet Maxim de Winter, a widower.
They marry immediately and return to his massive estate, Manderley. There, she realizes that the shadow of the deceased Mrs. de Winter, Rebecca, casts a pall over the whole house and even her relationship with Maxim. Though dead, Rebecca seems larger than life and in some ways seems to still live in the house.
As the tension increases, we get sucked more and more into the mystery. I’ll admit, the first half of the book can be slow-going, but stick it out! The twists and turns in the last part of the book are absolutely delicious.
I will also add, this is a perfect book to read for an October book club.
12. Lovely War, by Julie Berry
Another World War I book, but what makes this one extra special is that it is narrated by the Greek gods of Aphrodite, Ares, and Hephaestus.
While that intro may seem bizarre, the story just works. Aphrodite tells the story of four young lovers in an effort to placate and appeal the case for love to her husband, Hephaestus.
The lovers in question are Hazel, a talented English pianist who joins the nursing staff in France, and James, a new English soldier about to be shipped off to fight in France.
There’s also Aubrey, a talented American musician that is part of the all-African-American regiment in France, and Colette, a Belgian singer who also joins the nursing corps to escape her own tragedies.
The stories of these four young adults are woven together expertly, and with the interjections of Aphrodite and the other gods telling and debating the story and the merits of love and hope, it’s a book you won’t soon forget.
13. The Alice Network, by Kate Quinn
Split between the story of Eve in 1915 and the story of Charlie in 1947, the Alice Network is a harrowing tale of a female spy ring France during World War I.
In 1947, Charlie is unmarried and pregnant, and sent in disgrace to England. She runs off to France, desperate to find out what happened to her cousin, Rose, who disappeared during the war.
In 1915, Eve is determined to join the war effort, and is sent to work as a spy in France, as part of “The Alice Network” spy ring.
I loved this book and the way the stories ended up weaving together. I will say, though, that this one had a few very difficult scenes to read.
14. Where the Light Falls, by Allison Pataki
This historical fiction is set in Paris during the French Revolution. The story weaves together both real and fictional characters, as they have to grapple with supporting the original ideals of the revolution while at the same time the movement heads toward the Reign of Terror.
Our characters are Jean-Luc, a lawyer, and his wife, Marie, who move to Paris to support the revolutionary cause. We also follow Andre Valiere, a former nobleman who has renounced his title and money in support of the cause, and Sophie, a young aristocratic widow, with an overprotective, powerful uncle.
I loved reading about a time period I had really only studied in school, and not read many fiction books about!
15. The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah
I loved this World War 2 book about two sisters and the individual ways they fought their own battles during the war.
Vianne, along with her young daughter, says goodbye to her husband as he heads for the front. Not long later, Germans occupy France, Nazis come to their village, and her own home is chosen to house a German officer.
Isabelle is young and idealistic and joins the resistance, eventually putting herself in grave danger and risking her life to save others.
As the book and the war continue, the tension, danger, and fear build, as they face impossible choices while trying to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.
16. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
This World War 2 book alternates between two perspectives: Marie-Laure, a blind French girl who lives with her father in Saint-Malo, and Werner, a German boy who is an expert at operating radios, and uses his radio knowledge to track down the resistance. Their stories eventually interconnect.
While definitely set to the backdrop of war, this story still felt sweet and hopeful, with some of the cruelties of that war being less explicit.
This book has won several awards, and I believe it deserves them!
17. The Vine Witch, by Luanne G. Smith
Another witch book!
In the Vine Witch, Elena, a young witch, finally breaks free of a powerful spell that had her bound as a toad, and returns to her vineyard. The problem is, in her years long absence, someone else now is running her vineyard.
While Jean-Paul is nice and welcomes her into the home, he doesn’t believe in the need for magic for a vineyard to succeed. Elena is forced to nurture the vines and remove hexes surreptitiously, while also figuring out who cursed her in the first place – so she can get revenge and protect her valley.
18. The Paris Library, by Janet Skeslien Charles
It’s 1939, and Odile works for the American Library of Paris. Her father and boyfriend are both police officers in Paris, and are given the very unfortunate task of doing the Nazi’s bidding.
Odile, with her coworkers, works to keep the library open, to save the books, and to secretly carry books to patrons now forbidden to use the library.
In 1983 Montana, Lily is a teenager going through her own difficult circumstances – as her mother dies and her father remarries. She seeks out and develops a true friendship with the elderly Odile, and as their friendship continues, more of the secrets of Odile’s past come out.
I really enjoyed both timelines, but I found the friendship between Odile and Lily to be particularly sweet – they both helped each other in ways the other really needed.
I really enjoyed all of the books set in France on this list, and I hope you do too!
Looking for more book lists set in other countries? Check out these lists:
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