11 of the best books set in France

Whether you're going to Paris or Provence, we've got just the book for you to pack in your suitcase.

Katie Russell
Image credit: Flynn Shore/Penguin

Nothing beats reading a book set in Paris while sipping coffee at a Parisian pavement café; talk about an immersive experience. So, if you’re going on holiday to France this summer – whether that be taking in the sparkling lights of the capital or escaping to the rolling hills of Provence – we have just the book for you to take in your suitcase. From adrenaline-pumping thrillers to heart-warming romances, there’s something for everyone on our list below.

Alexandra gets more than she bargained for when she moves from London to Provence one summer to look after three unruly children. The biggest challenge? Their father – the handsome count, whom Alexandra can’t help but fall in love with. Katie Fforde continues to reign as the queen of escapism.

This thriller, set in Paris in 1895, is inspired by a true story. When Alfred Dreyfus is sentenced to life imprisonment for being a spy, counterespionage officer Georges Piquart has every reason to believe he is guilty. But then he stumbles upon evidence that suggests Dreyfus’s innocence – and a wider conspiracy at play.

Looking for a fresh start, Del and her husband move to Provence. But when he goes back to London, Del realises she wants to stay in sunny France – alone. As she gets used to the new climate, she discovers a love for baking and a new taste for adventure.

Private Paris by James Patterson and Mark Sullivan (2016)

Investigator Jack Morgan’s holiday in Paris is cut short when an important client calls him, asking him to track down his granddaughter – she is on the run from a notorious drug dealer. When members of Paris’s elite start turning up dead, Jack is in a race against time to find those responsible.

In Paris for One, Nell is abandoned by her boyfriend moments before their arranged romantic trip to Paris. Told with JoJo Moyes’ characteristic wit and warmth, the story is about learning to let go of the past and find yourself. It’s great poolside reading – and so are the 10 accompanying short stories.

The year is 1885, and women who are declared “mad” are sent to the Salpêtrière asylum in Paris. But on the night of the ball held for the Parisian elite, a new patient reveals secrets that could undo the whole system. You might finish this gripping read before you’ve even landed in France.

Imogen by Jilly Cooper (1978)

When lonely librarian Imogen catches the eye of tennis star Nicky, she agrees to accompany him and his glamorous friends to the French Riviera. But Nicky’s cruelty, and wandering eye, mean Imogen must find her own fun – with the help of the charming journalist Matt. This is Jilly Cooper romance at its best.

A dead body is found inside Paris’s Louvre museum. Besides the corpse: a series of baffling codes. It’s down to a Harvard professor and a French cryptologist to crack the codes – and unlock a mystery that goes back to the depths of time. This mystery is a classic for a reason.

When the Larkins go on holiday to France, they receive a hostile welcome – and much hilarity ensues. This light-hearted comedy of manners was the inspiration for the ITV drama The Larkins. It might not sell France as a destination, but it’s a perfect holiday read.

In Bonjour Tristesse, Cecile goes to extreme lengths to disrupt her father’s marriage. Set across a hot summer on the Riviera, you’ll marvel at the beauty of the landscape and the themes of love, sex and obsession. This edition also includes the novella A Certain Smile, about a bored young woman’s relationship with an older man.

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