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Cassandra's Favourite French Books

Discover a selection of Cassandra's favourite French books to read this Winter

L’Amour (“Love”)- François Bégaudeau

The book tells us about Jeanne and Jacques without any twists or dramas. Two adolescents who grow old together. Love recounts a couple enduring for fifty years. Feelings have always been in vogue. Writers have always exhausted themselves with stories of electric, toxic, violent, or sensationalized love. François Bégaudeau takes a different path. He does not get carried away with encounters, breakups, or betrayals. His perspective remains flat. He describes the majority; the silent ones. He does not overestimate love. "Among all fictional propositions, cinema, and literature, to put it simply, love is overrepresented. It's very important in people's lives, perhaps it's also due to sensationalistic calculations, especially in the mainstream, where love might be somewhat our common lot, a divisive subject. I had a thought about this thirty years ago, when I started reading a lot and watching a huge number of films. I thought that we never talk about ordinary love." This is where the novelist chose to do so.

La Danseuse (“The Dancer”) - Patrick Modiano

As usual, Patrick Modiano surprises and continues to captivate critics unanimously. He pens a very brief 100-page novel that unfolds in the atmosphere of a Paris he no longer recognizes, set in the mid-1960s, featuring a narrator closely resembling him. The author speaks of a foreign city resembling a vast amusement park. The narrator, at 20 years old, is penniless. He finishes his first novel, writes songs, including the famous "Étonnez-moi Benoît," soon to be performed by Françoise Hardy. He meets the real publisher Maurice Girodias, who suggests adding episodes to novels censored in Anglo-Saxon countries. Occasionally, he looks after a ten-year-old boy whose mother is a dancer and whose teacher is the true Russian ballet master, Boris Kniaseff, for whom dance is a discipline for survival. For critics, this book is radiant, moving toward the light as it traces the parallel paths of this young dancer and budding writer, both escaping ghosts of the past, unsavory associations, and violence to move, thanks to discipline—dance for one, writing for the other—toward the light.

La Foudre (“The Lightening”) - Pierric Bailly

“La Foudre” is a novel entwining passionate love and unsettling events. John, a shepherd in the Haut-Jura, is shaken by the arrest of his old friend Alexandre for murder. Investigating, he reconnects with Nadia, Alexandre's wife, igniting an unexpected affair. As John's desires shift, he questions his life with Héloïse. His loyalty to Alexandre clashes with newfound feelings for Nadia, leading to a turbulent and conflicted journey that challenges his relationships and choices. In addition, this book tells the story of a modern-day shepherd's life in the Jura, facing the challenges of modern society.

Veiller sur elle (“Watch Over Her”) - Jean Baptiste Andréa

Thanks to this book, the author won this year's Prix Goncourt, the most prestigious French literary award. The book tells the story of Michelangelo Vitaliani, known as Mimo, who spends his final moments in the convent where he has lived in seclusion for 40 years. He remains close to 'Her', his Pieta, his masterpiece that the Vatican has decided to conceal from the world as it supposedly causes discomfort. He revisits his life from the years of World War I to the end of World War II. Viola, the daughter of the Orsini family, a prominent Italian family, becomes his friend and mentor, lending him books and introducing him to art. Mimo leads a life full of trials, mocked for his short stature yet envied for his talent. This novel is an ode to beauty and Italian artists. It is a pleasure to read, full of twists, intertwining the history of men with the history of Italian art.

La prochaine fois que tu mordras la poussière ("The next time you bite the dust") - Panayotis Pascot

Panayotis Pascot tackles three themes with a sharp and modern pen, weaving them together to craft an autobiographical narrative as acidic as it is “ultraclear”. The relationship with his father, the acceptance of his homosexuality, and depression intertwine in a turbulent transition to adulthood. Yet, light always emerges, through a glance, an observation of daily life, approached with equal parts tenderness, humor, and insight. While the words may at times be raw, the tone remains modest. Nothing is gratuitously coarse or vulgar. Questioning what it means to be a man, the author engages in an internal battle against toxic masculinity and the presumed role of males in a heteronormative society.

Panorama - Lilia Hassaine

With an elegant writing style, Lilia Hassaine draws us into this waking nightmare with her endearing, tormented character, Hélène, a former police commissioner who resumes duty to find a couple and their son. Despite the glass houses and vigilant surveillance, strangely no one saw anything. The new world lives in Transparency, a system born after a Revenge Week during which victims could kill their tormentors to seek revenge in the face of a justice system deemed too lenient. With subtlety, Lilia Hassaine narrates the inexorable rise of populism and the citizens' acceptance of surrendering all privacy in the name of security. An exchange that will not make everyone happy. Who benefits from the crime? Beyond the detective plot, the writer depicts a deeply divided and torn society driven by fear, quick to denounce. A dehumanized society devoid of hope. It's in this suffocating atmosphere that Commissioner Hélène, while grappling with complicated relationships, strives to complete her investigation.

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