Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Ten of the best novels about France

Liz Boulter is a subeditor on the Guardian travel desk.

One of her "personal top 10 novels that give une véritable saveur" of France:
Perfume by Patrick Süskind

This 1985 masterpiece takes us to a Paris very different from today’s City of Light. In 18th century France “there reigned in the cities a stench barely conceivable to us modern men and women … Even the king himself stank, stank like a rank lion, and the queen like an old goat, summer and winter.” Around this malodorous world prowls the gifted and abominable Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, with his “killer” sense of smell. Yet those familiar with the city’s first arrondissement can follow in their mind’s eye as he “so thoroughly smelled out the quarter between Saint-Eustache and the Hôtel de Ville that he could find his way around in it by pitch-dark night”. Grenouille later leaves Paris and makes his way south via the hills of the Massif Central. The book’s final chapters are played out a few miles from the Côte d’Azur – amid the lavender fields of the world’s perfume capital, Grasse.
Read about another entry Boulter tagged at the Guardian.

Perfume is among Glenn Skwerer's top ten real-life monsters in fiction, four books that changed Meg Keneally, four books that changed Katrina Lawrence, Karen Runge's five (damn-near) perfect (dark) novels, and Lara Feigel's top ten smelly books.

--Marshal Zeringue