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Chapter 12 - Wish You Were Here

Since retiring my "life" list (as opposed to bucket list) has grown enormously. There is a lot of travel on it, some new skills to learn, some skills to polish and, of course, plenty of reading. So many places on the list - France (Normandy and Provence in particular), Italy (think Tuscany and Florence), Prague, Greece, Croatia, Egypt, Jordan, and many more. So until I can pack my bags and take off, I'm reading about many of these places and planning out what I want to see. While my "go to" travel guide is usually a Rick Steves' book (which often give you access to audio downloads), I have also grabbed some DK books as well as Lonely Planet guides.

Best of all are the novels I've read. I'm on a France kick right now and am loading up on anything and everything which can tell me about the past and present of France. Here are some books I have read that fit the bill.

Paris by Edward Rutherfurd - I loved this book and is probably the best book I've read in a long time. It starts in 1875 with the building of the Eiffel Tower and follows about five families through many generations. Like the master storyteller he is, Rutherfurd ties it all up in the end and the reader sees how the lives of these families effected each other. Word of warning though - the book is not a chronological telling of the stories but jumps back and forth between time periods. Even with this construct I did not find it difficult to follow especially as the author was so kind to provide maps and family trees at the front. If you are a fan of the Ken Follett family sagas, try this!

From a Balcony in Paris by Ella Carey - I did not realize this was the third in the series when I picked it up. Thankfully it didn't matter! Sarah is trying to track down information about her great great aunt Louise who died in Paris at the turn of the century. The only thing she has to go on is a letter from Marthe de Florian, a well known courtesan whose apartment was opened after 70 years. After reading this book I then ordered the first two. This is a good story that features a mystery along with some history. If you missed that apartment story (true story) you can read about it here -

The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles - I put off reading this for a long time but finished it recently and glad I did. While King Francois opened his library to scholars, it wasn't until 1920 with the opening of the American Library in Paris that books on loan became available to the public. The story goes between 1939 Odile, a librarian at the American Library and 1983 Lily, a lonely teenager in Montana. Of course their stories merge into a wonderful tale. Janet Skeslien Charles' mother, Barbara, was one of Bookend's favorite winter customers and we were super excited when this book was published.

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn - In 1947 Charlie St. Claire goes to find her French cousin who she has not heard from since before the occupation of France. Charlie is young, pregnant and getting ready to be disowned by her family. She starts in London and teams up with Eve who was a spy in World War I - part of the Alice Network. Together they piece together the whole story.

A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle - My husband, Dave, has been following a lot of YouTube videos about people buying and renovating chateaus in France. This is not a new event. Peter Mayle and his wife decided to move from England to southern France in the late 1980's and out of this adventure came a series of books starting with this one. While Mayle was actually a very prolific writer, his time in Provence is what he is really known for. The cast of characters in this and his other books will make you laugh, cry, and feel great compassion for the unknowing Brits as they try to renovate an old farm house!

Do you have any favorite books about France? Please let me know!


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