Magazine

French novels much loved by readers

Muriel Barbery
Image caption Several readers said Muriel Barbery was their favourite French novelist

A Magazine feature about the dearth of globally successful French novelists struck a chord with readers.

In response to the piece, many sent in nominations for their favourite French fiction. Here is a selection.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery is an excellent book. The characters are so well drawn that I actually cried while reading this book. I don't cry easily. Benjamin Dahlbeck, Atlanta, US

Fred Vargas writes beautiful, lyrical, often humorous prose and haunting crime stories - mostly, though not exclusively, set in Paris - and is the only author to have won three International Dagger Awards from the Crime Writers Association for three successive novels. I first read Sous les Vents de Neptune as part of a university course on French detective fiction, and in the three years since I've devoured everything else she's ever written. I've recommended her books to my parents and to my friends, and I haven't yet found anyone who didn't enjoy them. Bethan C, Cardiff, Wales

My favourite French books are La Gloire de mon Pere and [this story] continuing in Le Chateau de ma Mere, both by Marcel Pagnol (1957). The story is of Marcel's childhood in the hills above Marseilles. His experiences with his new friend, Lili des Bellons are magical. The descriptions of the simple life in a France fast disappearing are wonderful. We can feel the heat, listen to the cicadas, smell the lavender and return to our own childhoods. The plot is good and the characters believable. The books were made into films and lost none of their charm. Paulette Graydon, Pouance, France

My favourite French novel of recent years is Murder on the Eiffel Tower written by Claude Izner, the nom de plume of two sisters, Liliane Korb and Laurence Lefevre. Murder on the Eiffel Tower is the first and, in my opinion, the best of a series of murder mysteries set in Paris of the Belle Epoque and featuring a bookseller turned amateur detective, Victor Legris. Once one gets past the period detail that is a feature of French literature (and which I love), the plot line equals that of a Conan Doyle or Agatha Christie. Ian Askew, Pelsall, England

Image caption Le Clezio won a Nobel prize in 2008

I must say that I am surprised about [Jean-Marie Gustave] Le Clezio's lack of fame in the English speaking world. I read his book, Le Chercheur d'Or, a few years back and fell in love with it immediately. The story in itself is rather slow-paced, and its small font is liable to turn potential readers away. However, the style of writing is fantastic. The French language lends itself to poetry very well. Le Clezio glides through accounts of natural disaster, war and adventure with the use of a wonderfully poetical narrative. This is what makes the story quite so enchanting; others should read it for pure appreciation of the art of the French language. The writing style dominates the storyline, something that foreign readers should adapt to - and learn from. Alicia Davies, Toulouse, France

The Erasers, by Alain Robbe-Grillet. The work has both the complex structure of his later work and a very engaging texture to the narrative. The descriptions of ordinary things is very rich. You get a real sense of not just the physical space between the narrator and the objects, but of the psychological space as well. Stephen Lawler, Bicester, UK

Le Petit Nicolas by Rene Goscinny and Jean-Jacques Sempe. The first in the series was published in 1959. The stories of young Nicolas and his friends and family at school and at home (narrated in the first person) are still very funny today. I enjoyed them as a child in Switzerland and I read them to my daughter now. I feel as though I know Le Bouillon, the playground supervisor, even though my school never had such a character. Leila, Irvine, California, US

L'Ete Meurtrier and 10.30 from Marseille, both by Sebastian Japrisot, are gripping crime novels. Well-written with strong characterisation, clever plotting, plenty of suspense and local colour, distinctively French but well-suited to an English-speaking market. Roger Goodacre, London

My favourite is L'Adversaire by Emmanuel Carrere. Incredible, fascinating true story of a man who lived a complete lie for around 20 years - fooling all his friends, even wife and children, that he was a WHO doctor. In reality he mainly just hung around service stations all day and tried to figure out ways to wangle money. Combines gripping drama and existential mystery. Tim Nicolas, Brussels

Georges Perec's Life: A User's Manuel [La Vie Mode d'Emploi]. Simply one of the most brilliant novels written in the last 50 years. Ingenious, fascinating, creative, historical, devious, intriguing and unique, a great writer from the OLIPO group, widely read in the US, well in NYC anyway, contradicting this article. Richard, New York

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