French-themed books to read this month


Marie-Antoinette: The Making of a French Queen – John Hardman

Yale University Press, £ 10.99, ISBN: 9780300260946

We all know her name, but who was the real Marie Antoinette?

This is the question that John Hardman explores in his book Marie-Antoinette: The Making of a French Queen, which will appear in paperback on August 24.

Marie-Antoinette was the last queen of France before the French Revolution. She was born Archduchess of Austria in 1755 and died after being convicted of high treason and executed by guillotine on October 16, 1793.

That’s what’s in between those moments that Hardman focuses on.

His quest for answers leads him from the court of Louis XVI, to the last year of Versailles, to the fall of the French monarchy and to the eventual disappearance of Marie-Antoinette.

The book is billed as “a fresh take on our understanding of this famous ‘out of touch’ queen fundamentally,” with Hardman drawing on new sources to tell the story of the doomed queen.

It shows for the first time the true influence Marie-Antoinette had during her lifetime, and how she used it.

The book, for example, sheds new light on Marie-Antoinette’s opposition to her mother’s aggressive foreign policy strategy, how, during the revolution, she listened to the “third estate,” including farmers and business owners, and how she worked with repentant radicals to support the cause of constitutional monarchy.

It was named Book of the Year by The spectator in 2020 (the hardcover edition), it will therefore be an insightful and captivating read.

An essential addition to the collection of any lover of French history.

The Castle – Catherine Cooper

HarperCollins, £ 7.99, ISBN: 9780008400255

Chateau Catherine Cooper, HarperCollins

The castle is Cooper’s second book, after his first novel The cottage became a Sunday opening hours bestseller, sold over 80,000 copies and spent three weeks in the Kindle Top 100.

Like his first book, The castle is a teasing thriller. It is obviously located in a castle in France – a great place for a mystery.

The idea is that a couple from the UK with a secret past move into a chateau in France with the aim of starting a new life. They want a fresh start. In this regard, things are off to a good start.

They settle in well at first and are warmly welcomed by the local community.

But then, at an extravagant party, one of their neighbors is murdered, and life in a fairytale castle suddenly becomes grim.

The book teases, “Anyone knows exactly why they really came to the castle. And someone will give them what they deserve ”.

Cooper seems to have found a winning formula, combining idyllic French settings with dark and captivating mysterious murder plots.

This makes sense, as she herself lives in France with her family and is a self-proclaimed fan of Agatha Christie, whom she discovered as a child.

If the success of its debut has anything to do with The Chateau should be a thrilling race.

It will be released on September 2, 2021.

We hope this is not the last France-based thriller that Cooper will produce.

Code name Madeleine: a Sufi spy in Nazi-occupied Paris Arthur J. Magida

WW Norton & Co, £ 9.99 ISBN: 9780393867558

Code name Madeleine: a Sufi spy in Nazi-occupied Paris Arthur J. Magida

Noor Inayat Khan – codenamed Madeleine – was the first female wireless operator to be sent from the UK to occupied France to aid the French Resistance during World War II.

Three months after the Allied invasion, she was executed in the Dachau concentration camp. His last word would have been “freedom”. She is a heroine of the war effort and was posthumously awarded the George Cross, the UK’s highest civilian honor.

The book delves into its dramatic history. He recounts how she was one of the most unlikely candidates to become a war hero, coming from an Indian family devoted to peaceful thinking.

It is reported that she said before her death: “I wish some Indians would get high military honor in this war. If one or two could do something in Allied service that is very courageous and that everyone admires, it would help bridge the gap between the English and the Indians ”.

Noor Inayat Khan was that courageous and heroic person, and his name is unfortunately not well known enough. This book will help rectify that – her story deserves a lot more attention than it has received.

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French-themed books to read this month

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