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French Fiction Fridays #17

Fast-paced Bohemian style adventures are on the menu for this French Fiction Fridays' special. Full of self-aware angst and quirky conundrums, these stories offer heart-felt illustrations of the all-too-human conflicting passions of life, nostalgia, and reconciliation. From solving mysteries on the shores of Brittany to rediscovering the la vie bohème of one man's late eccentric mother, these novels tackle tragedy with grace, humor, and wit.

Rough Seas(Mer agitée à très agitée) by Sophie BassignacPublisher: JC Lattès

With their edgier years in hipster New York behind them, former runway model Maryline and ex-rocker William Halloway land on the coast of Brittany to live a peaceful life as the innkeepers of Ker Annette. But one fine July day, a young woman is found dead in a coastal inlet. Leading the investigation, Simon Schwartz, once the love of Maryline’s life, will turn her world upside down and revive ghosts from the past. On the eve of this year’s high tourist season, Maryline has to perform a tricky balancing act to safeguard her little brood, while continuing to deal with guests at her family-run B&B battered by the wild coastal winds.

In this detective story with a twist, love and laughter keep a quirky family afloat, as they and a few eccentric extras rock-and-roll their way through a seaside summer.

After four critical successes, including Dos à dos (2011) [Back to Back] and Un jardin extraordinaire [An Extraordinary Garden] (2012), both published by Lattès, novelist Sophie Bassignac returns with Mer agitée à très agitée [Rough Seas] (2014).

Read excerpt in English translated by Jane Kuntz

Read excerpt in French

Fenicia by Pierre BrunetPublisher: Calmann-Lévy


Pierre Brunet tells the story of his mother, Fenicia, a dazzling and tragic figure whose life provoked fascination and adoration but also ruin, chaos, and finally silence. When she died in a psychiatric hospital near Paris at the age of 31, on April 5th 1964, she had been known by many names. As the baby Ana, she was abandoned at birth near a religious orphanage in Barcelona and adopted at the height of the Spanish Civil War by a pair of passionate anarchists. While interned in the concentration camp at Argelès-sur-Mer, her adoptive parents changed her name to Fenicia as a tribute to the ancient Phoenicians who had brought the spirit of freedom to Spain. She grew up to be a rare beauty of high intelligence, a militant anarchist — and also a seductress. An unwed mother before marriage and an advanced degree in literature, Fenicia was beloved by many: there was Mateo, her stepfather; Georges, a brillant lawyer, first lover and mentor; Jean, her utterly loyal husband who never understood her; and Gil, her last paramour, enraptured and gallant. But throughout her life she doubted others really loved her and remained a little girl terrified of abandonment and appalled by the barbarity and ugliness of the world. She was also a compulsive inventor and reinventor of her own life, whose intermingling of lies and truth finally spelled her doom. Could abandonment at birth and a childhood mired in war and chaos leave open even the slimmest chance of making peace with others or with herself?

Pierre Brunet, who was born in Paris in 1961, has had many occupations, among them advertising salesman, croupier, security officer, and journalist. As a humanitarian aid worker in 1994, he was posted first to Rwanda and later to Bosnia. Today, while serving as communications manager of a French NGO, he is able to devote a substantial part of his time to writing. He is the author of Barnum (2006) and J.A.B. (2008), published by Éditions Calmann-Lévy.


Read excerpt in English translated by Donald Nicholson Smith

Read excerpt in French

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