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A Good Read

 


priscilla,
the hidden life of an Englishwoman in Wartime France

by Nicholas Shakespeare, published by Harvill Secker

'When Nicholas Shakespeare stumbled across a box of documents belonging to his late aunt he was completely unaware of where this discovery would take him. The Priscilla he remembered was very different from the glamorous, morally ambiguous young woman who emerged from the many love letters and journals, surrounded by suitors and living the dangerous existence of a British woman in a country controlled by the enemy. He had heard rumours that Priscilla had fought in the Resistance, but the truth turned out to be far more complicated'.

 

A Skulk of Foxes
by Richard Sutcliffe

'The brutal murder of an elderly French neighbour rudely interrupts the trivial lives of five British families who have settled in the village of St. Val in the Morvan region of Burgundy.

French policeman Renard is charged with tracking down the killer. He enlists the help of Tom Fox, a bilingual local resident. Surprisingly, their investigation, although firmly fixed in the present, takes them back to the murky days of the Nazi Occupation of France.'

A Skulk of Foxes available on Amazon

A Skulk of Foxes, Richard Sutcliffe  



Suite Francaise
by Irène Némirovsky

Having fled St Petersburg in the Russian revolution, Némirovsky settled in Burgundy, only to be captured and taken to Auschwitz.It is amazing that this novel about the second world war survived and, like Fire in the Blood, it has received wide acclaim.

The Amazon synopsis says: In 1941, Irene Nemirovsky sat down to write a book that would convey the magnitude of what she was living through, not in terms of battles and politicians, but by evoking the domestic lives and personal trials of the ordinary citizens of France. Set during a year that begins with France's fall to the Nazis in June 1940 and ending with Germany turning its attention to Russia, "Suite Francaise" falls into two parts. The first is a brilliant depiction of a group of Parisians as they flee the Nazi invasion and make their way through the chaos of France; the second follows the inhabitants of a small rural community under occupation who find themselves thrown together in ways they never expected. Nemirovsky's brilliance as a writer lay in her portrayal of people, and this is a novel that teems with wonderful characters, each more vivid than the next. Haughty aristocrats, bourgeois bankers and snobbish aesthetes rub shoulders with uncouth workers and bolshy farmers.

Women variously resist or succumb to the charms of German soldiers. However, amidst the mess of defeat, and all the hypocrisy and compromise, there is hope.

By the same author:

Fire in the Blood

David Golder

All Our Worldly Goods

 


 

King Arthur's French Odyssey
by Marilyn Floyde

'The name King Arthur stirs something in the national blood. For whether he existed or not, there is something quintessentially British about it that inspires people to return time and again to the familiar stories associated with real places in Britain, like Glastonbury. At the end of the famous legend, when he departs for Avalon , King Arthur is inextricably linked to Glastonbury. Or is he? Marilyn Floyde reminds us that, in the earliest stories, he is also linked to France, or Gaul as it was then called. There is a theory that King Arthur could have performed his last heroic deeds in Burgundy. Or more specifically, in the ancient town of Avallon . Why has the Avallon in Burgundy largely been ignored, when it was the only real place of that name in existence in the fifth century? Perhaps there was a conspiracy perpetrated by unscrupulous medieval monks in England, designed to deprive France of a thousand years of tourist income... These theories are put to the test in this intriguing work. Follow the intrepid author as she explores the beautiful Burgundy countryside, on an investigative trail through history, religion and warfare, and into the magical realms of Arthurian legend. The compelling conclusions contain exciting new ideas. Be prepared to be challenged about the accepted origins of the myths behind the most famous king of them all. Subversive... A real addition to Arthuriana... [which raises]... many fresh issues; Geoffrey Ashe'

Now available translated into French Sur Les Traces Du Roi Arthur: Avallon En Bourgogne

 


 

My Life in France
by Julia Child, published by Knopf

After a life of writing some of the most successful cookery books ever, there’s not a recipe in sight in Julia Child’s last book, ‘My Life in France’.

Julia has been a phenomenon in the States with her television programmes and cookery books since the 1960s. But her whole passion for food, and particularly French food started in 1948 when she and her husband Paul, who was in the diplomatic service, came to live in Paris. ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’ which she wrote in conjunction with Simone Beck, took years of time consuming research and became a classic work, introducing this style of cooking to a new audience in the States. The book shows Child as the true professional she was; it is charming and informative, and reading it is sure to make you want to rush into the kitchen for a little something gastronomic.

As a result of the success of the film, 'Julie and Julia', My Life in France is also now available in paperback from Amazon.

 



Wine & War
by Don and Petie Kladstrup, published by Coronet Books

How the vintners protected and rescued France’s most treasured commodity during World War II.

The wine trade in France found itself in a difficult position during the Second World War. The Germans were requisitioning their precious wines, imbibing it and selling it to fund the war effort, often leaving none for the French themselves. A bad public relations exercise if ever there was one. Through the people in the wine trade, the war story unfolds with amusing anecdotes as well as harrowing stories of the Resistance, prisons, the black market, and deceit for survival.

As the authors say in their introduction ‘it is about people, people who indeed exude wit, gaiety and good taste and, whose love of the grape and devotion to a way of life helped them survive the triumph over one of the darkest and most difficult chapters in French history.’

 



Colette
The Collected Stories of Colette published by Vintage Classics

Colette was born in the Puisaye in the north west of Burgundy in 1873. She came to be considered one of France’s masters of prose and was given a state funeral when she died at the age of 81. Generations ahead of her time, she was one of the most scandalous writers of the early 20th C, using ‘sensual detail and sharp psychological insight’ as the one hundred short stories translated for this book reveal. From her childhood in Burgundy, a young and unhappy marriage in Paris to Willy, six years on the stage, and two further marriages, Colette drew on her experiences and observation of people in stories such as ‘Bella-Vista’ and ‘The Tender Shoot’. A book to dip into time and again.

 



Anne Willan: From My Château Kitchen
by Anne Willan, published by Clarkson Potter, New York

This gloriously illustrated coffee table book sums up the essence of Burgundy.

It is the story of Anne Willan’s love affair with this region of France, interweaving chapters of her life in the château with journeys into the countryside, and it includes 160 of her famous recipes.

Having founded the cookery school La Varenne in Paris in 1975, Anne and her husband then bought Château du Fey. In her own words, this was where the adventure began – the run down château, the cooking classes, getting to know the local farmers and shopkeepers, the cheese-makers and truffle-hunters. Wine writer Hugh Johnson says, ‘all this is a showcase in which Anne sets out her favourite recipes. This is food in context, and a context to make Francophiles everywhere rejoice’.

 



Beneath the Morvan Moon
by Courtney Mroch, published by Publish America

Courtney Mroch’s debut novel features a murder, a secret and a promise.

When Gretchen Lauterbach’s grandmother gives her a map marked with two Xs, it leads not to buried treasure but to a lover’s remains hidden in the Morvan Forest. Now it’s up to Gretchen to right an old wrong. If she hopes to succeed – and keep her life – she must distinguish ally from foe, truth from lie and realize nothing is what it seems.’

 



Maquis
by George Millar, published by Cassell

George Millar tells what it was really like living and working in the Resistance Movement in and around Besançon in the Franche Comté on the borders of Burgundy. Written in 1945, it is an heroic story of a man who had been captured by the Germans in North Africa, he then escaped to Britain and joined the SOE. There he was trained in sabotage operations and then parachuted into France to co-ordinate resistance efforts behind enemy lines. Hunted day and night by the Gestapo, it shows the fight put up by French men and women in the region. Millar was given the DSO and MC for his efforts during the Second World War.

 



A Year in the Merde
by Stephen Clarke, published by Bantam Press

Working for a year in Paris, Paul West, a young Englishman discovers what the French are really like. After six months he decides to ‘join the great Parisian tradition of buying a piece of this rural time capsule – a maison in the country’. Whether you have experienced town or country living in France, this book will make you laugh out loud. They are all experiences which you can relate to.

 



Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong
by Jean-Benoît Nadeau and Julie Barlow, published by Robson Books

Civil Servants make up a quarter of the working population, no less, in France.

Attend the Ecole Nationale d’Administration and you are considered amongst all else to be the height of success, the elite, above a captain of industry or an entrepreneur. Jean-Benoît Nadeau and Julie Barlow explain the French reliance on the State, the power of the unions and the many paradoxes of life in France through observations, anecdotes, history and political analysis. ‘Globalization will not spell France’s demise,’ they say, ‘What makes it work is the harmony between the spirit of the French and the structures they have given themselves’. Once you understand that they are different from the Anglo-American mind-set in the same way that the Chinese or Japanese are, you will understand ‘what makes the French so French’.

 



The Perfectionist, Life and Death in Haute Cuisine
by Rudolph Chelminski, published by Gotham Books

This is the story of Bernard Loiseau, one of the golden boys of haute cuisine in France in the 1990s. From the moment he set foot in the Troisgros as a trainee, Bernard had one ambition: to become a top chef and gain a Michelin three star rating. Chelminski traces the highs and lows of Loiseau’s life as he built up his business at the Côte d’Or in Saulieu, mounted up huge debt, and floated himself on the stock market. It makes fascinating reading – the restaurant hierarchy, the importance of the star ratings, the press influence and the pressures of the trade to always do and be better.

Loiseau, a great PR strategist, had an electric personality, but underneath the self assurance was a vulnerable man, who at the end of the day pushed himself too far. In fear of loosing one of his coveted Michelin stars, he shot himself. France went into shock.

All twenty-four of the country’s three star chefs came from far and wide for the funeral. In this small world of haute cuisine, there is strong camaraderie and they all understood his plight well. It is a moving story and the energy of the man shines through the pages.

 



Birdsong
by Sebastian Faulks

This novel by Sebastian Faulks is something of a modern day classic. While a book about the First World War in the trenches and tunnels of northern France can never be considered light reading, this is so well written and researched that it is informative, moving, and very memorable. There are moments when you wonder whether you can go on with the book any further, but you are involved with the central character Stephen, and go on you must. Without revealing the plot, suffice to say, it is a valuable book in helping to understand Europe’s recent history.

 



Charlotte Gray
by Sebastian Faulks

Following on from Birdsong, Faulks wrote Charlotte Gray, set in the Second World War in France. Charlotte is working undercover in the Resistance, and through the story, the harrowing events of the times, the passion of love and the tragedy of war unfold.

 



La France Gourmande
by Marolyn Charpentier, published by Pavilion

Markets are always a magnet for the visitor. For the French, the gastronomic fairs and festivals specialising in one product are particularly important, maintaining the traditions of rural France. Marolyn Charpentier was clearly spoilt for choice when researching her book, but she describes three annual events each month of the year, ranging from the garlic festival in Gascony in July to the Hot Bread Festival in Brittany in February. In Burgundy she visits the Fête du Charolais in Saulieu and Les Glorieuses in Bresse where the chicken is truly venerated. For every fête, a recipe is included. As she concludes, ‘traçabilité’ is a word on everyone’s lips – the need to know the source in order to uphold the quality, ‘the flavours of regional traditions will flourish, shaped and brought to the fête with pride, for pleasure of tasting.’

 



Especially for Children

Cowardy Cowardy custard
by Christine Battye with illustrations by Christopher Hobbs.

Custard's adventures in Burgundy‘He has a long shaggy coat, which is sometimes a bit smelly...Because he is so kind and gentle people think he might be a cowardy, cowardy Custard, but that’s not true. Custard is sometimes brave…’

Follow the adventures of this Bearded Collie dog named Custard who lives at Maison Crème Anglaise in the medieval village of Montréal in Burgundy as he rescues his friend Henri the wild boar. This charming childrens’ story is the first in a series by Christine Battye telling of the exploits of Custard and the Crew, with illustrations by Christopher Hobbs, who is also now a local resident.

Apart from entertaining delighted youngsters, the book comes with dual language, English and French, so it is an ideal way to keep current with your French.

If you would like a signed copy of Cowardy, Cowardy Custard, (Custard, Custard Petit Froussard ) send a cheque for either 10€ or £10.00 made payable to Christine Battye – together with your name and address and email details. She will confirm immediately on receipt of your order, and dispatch within 2 days. Maison Crème Anglaise, 22 Grande Rue, 89420 Montréal, France,0033(0)386320773