5 French books you can read this summer

Are you looking for French books to read this summer?
Either in French or simply from French authors?

If you have already read all of Proust, Maupassant and Verne or do not feel ready yet to embark in Hugo’s Les Misérables, Alain Fournier’s Le Grand Meaulnes or Albert Camus’ L’Etranger, here are some non-classic suggestions of lesser known French books and authors, recent or not.

Read these French books

La Quête d’Ewilan

Ewilan’s Quest

by Pierre Bottero

A fantasy trilogy written in 2003. It is part of the series Les Mondes by the same author comprising of four trilogies. The last trilogy, L’Autre is incomplete due to the passing of the author. It was only translated into Spanish. La Quête d’Ewilan is set in the fantasy world of Gwendalavir. The Empire has been dying for years due to the attacks of the Ts’liches, a species of humanoid like praying mantises. In Gwendalavir, some individuals can perform the art of Drawing, that is imagining something and transfer it to reality. The twelves most powerful Drawers are called the Sentinels. But only a few remained loyal to the Emperor when the Ts’liches unleashed chaos. Two of them have sent their children, Ewilan and Akiro, to our world so they could be raised safely. Teenage girl Camille Duciel learns her identity when she is sent back to Gwendalavir. As Ewilan Gil’Sayan, she meets with several companions’ ready to teach and train her to help defend the Empire against its enemies and restore the order of the Sentinels. La Quête d’Ewilan is an original fantasy story that teenagers and young adults will most certainly enjoy. But the books are accessible to fantasy fans in general, they will find a world with a deep lore and an interesting take on magic. The books of the trilogy are (in order):

  • D’un monde à l’autre
  • Les Frontières de glace
  • L’île du destin

The three other trilogies of Les Mondes series are (in order):

  • Les Mondes d’Ewilan
  • Le Pacte des Marchombres
  • L’Autre

Le Journal d’Adèle

by Paule du Bouchet (1995)

A  novel telling the story of 14 years old Adèle through the diary she started when the bells rang the beginning of the war in 1914. The reader follows Adèle’s life during the First World War in her small village in Burgundy. The departure of her two brothers for the front, the first letters announcing that young men of the village have been killed or taken prisoners, the harvest without the men, winter, the refugees fleeing the German advance are events that marked young Adèle’s last childhood years.

If Adèle is fictional, her story is not and based on true events. The book, written in the form of a personal diary will appeal to a large public, with a relatively simple writing style reflecting the age of the main character.

La trilogie des fourmis

by Bernard Werber (1991)

A science-fiction and thriller saga. The trilogy was widely acclaimed and translated into many languages. In the first book, the readers follow Jonathan Wells, nephew of a famous deceased biologist, and two ants, 327 and 103 683. Bernard Werber was praised for his extensive research on ant behavior and the functioning of a colony, although it admitted taking some liberties concerning ant social behavior. La trilogie des fourmis is probably one of Werber’s most successful work and may open the reader to his other books such as L’arbre des possibles or Les Thanatonautes (The Thanatonauts).

His novels are filled with philosophical problematics such as death, divine existence, …etc. The three books of La Trilogie des fourmis are (in order with the name of the English translation):

  • Les fourmis (Empire of the Ants)
  • Le jour des fourmis (The Day of the Ants)
  • La Révolution des fourmis (The Revolution of the Ants)

Werber’s books suit more adults and young adults.

La planète des singes

Planet of the Apes

by Pierre Boulle (1963)

Famous thanks to the movies, Planet of the Apes is a science-fiction novel inspired by Darwinism and evolution. In his novel, Pierre Boulle imagines a future with apes as the leading species on Earth, and mankind relayed to the second rank. Boulle’s novel was a success, it inspired several movie adaptions, TV series, and comics. It is available in many languages.

Les Nettoyeurs

The Cleaners

by Julien Centaure

A science-fiction novel set in a distant future. The Ploutons, a mysterious alien race with the ability to destroy one’s mind, invaded Earth centuries ago and forced what remained of mankind to live underground. Anthea is one, or perhaps the only, underground human city.  Only a handful of individuals, called the Cleaners, are allowed on the surface for maintenance duty of the City oxygen machines.

Lum is an accomplished Cleaner, record holder of the number of hours spent on the surface. But one day, Lum’s mission takes an entirely new turn when he is ambushed by unknown men. Les Nettoyeurs is an action-packed science-fiction story with a lot of suspense and an interesting version of the origins of life. The book never received much attention and only exists in French but received favorable reviews.

The digital version is very cheap and one of this blog author’s favorite science-fiction story.

Tous les matins du monde

All the world’s mornings

by Pascal Quignard (1991)

is a historical novel set in 17th century France during the early reign of Louis XIV. Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe decides to offer viol classes to forget the recent passing of his wife and to win money for his children. Sainte-Colombe is a recluse, seldom talking man even to his daughters.  He even refuses the invitation to court the King sent him as a reward for his musical talent. Marin Marais, a young musician, asks Monsieur de Sainte Colombe to teach him the viol. But the relation between the two men is difficult.

Tous les matins du monde was a successful novel, inspired byreal-lifee people (Marin Marais) and was adapted for cinema by Alain Corneau with Guillaume and Gérard Depardieu (as young and adult Marin Marais) and Jean-Pierre Marielle as Monsieur de Saint-Colombe.