5 French historical novels: 1900-1945
What could be better than learning about French history through reading books? Readers can experience a world different from their own and live an experience through the eyes of a character from another era. In class, we learned about history, including events, dates, and character names to memorize. We received an overview of our history. Furthermore, there is history that we can learn by reading books. The main difference lies in the fact that in class, we were given an overview of History, whereas by reading a book, we can focus on a specific period of this history.
I’ve included five readings that will help you better understand the French society between 1900 and 1945.
- Des grives au loup de Claude Michelet
- L’Orange de Noël de Michel Peyramaure
- The Great Swindle by Pierre Lemaitre
- Ce pays qu’on appelle vivre de Ariane Bois
- A Bag of Marbles by Joseph Joffo
Des grives au loup by Claude Michelet (1979)
This regional novel explores the life of the Vialhe family of Saint-Libéral-sur-Diamond, a fictional village in Corrèze created by the author for the purposes of the story. The story doesn’t focus on one character, but on several.
By observing this land over time, specifically from 1899 to 1968, the author of des grives au loup will show you all the changes that technical progress has brought, such as the arrival of the railway.
L’Orange de Noël by Michel Peyramaure (1998)
At the end of the summer of 1913, Cécile Brunie, a young teacher, came to Saint-Roch to take over her job. The priest alone rules this small village in the lower Corrèze, and she is received in a very hostile manner. She will have to impose secular education over Catholic education. She will be trusted by families, and they will send their children to her. The young Malvina, who is uneducated, will become Cécile’s protégé.
The Great Swindle by Pierre Lemaitre (2013)
The Great Swindle is a great novel that is set in the aftermath of World War I. From this post-war period of 14, the novel depicts the illusion of an armistice, where the state glorifies its disappearance and gets rid of the living who are too cumbersome. Albert and Edouard, two survivors of the trenches, understood that France will not be able to help them. To protect society, the state, and patriotic morality, they devised a scam of national scope and absolute cynicism.
Ce pays qu’on appelle vivre by Ariane Bois (2023)
In ce pays qu’on appelle vivre, we discover the portrait of two heroes trapped in the largest French internment and deportation camp in the southern zone, at Les Milles near Aix-en-Provence, in this novel of love and resistance. Leonard Stein, a young German press cartoonist of the Jewish faith, was arrested by French gendarmes in 1940 and interned at Les Milles. This camp is also a center of culture and creation, bringing together intellectuals and artists such as Max Ernst and Hans Bellmer. During his attempt to escape Les Milles, Leo meets Margot Keller, a young woman from Marseille, who is a volunteer with a rescue network. He is in love with her with great intensity. During the summer of 1942, the young couple decided to attempt the impossible: to save the Jewish children from deportation.
A Bag of Marbles by Joseph Joffo (1973)
This autobiography examines the years 1941-1945. A Bag of Marbles is a poignant and unforgettable memoir revolves around the events the author experienced with his brother, Maurice, as they attempted to escape the Nazis during the Vichy government until the end of the war. During this journey, moments of happiness and carelessness alternate with moments of tension and crisis.
Historical stories are not just about learning history, they offer an immersive and engaging experience that can transport readers to different time periods and cultures. While French-speaking YouTube channels can offer French learners a unique experience that takes them on a journey through the richness of French culture and history, our FrenchBookmark book club groups provide supportive environments for students. French learners looking for a more social and interactive experience, where they can explore the French literature, build language skills, and share their reading experiences with others.