Six Great Books for Lovers of the Left Bank of Paris

School may be out for summer, but there’s no better time of year to pick up a book to read during lazy Sunday afternoons in the park. Focusing on Paris’s Left Bank, our resident literary expert Lauren Sarazen has pulled together a summer syllabus to top your summer reading list. Whether history or mystery is more your thing, learning a bit more about Paris’s Left Bank has never been more tantalizing.

Left Bank: Art, Passion, and the Rebirth of Paris, 1940-50 by Agnès Poirier

Memories of the Left Bank literary scene may be dominated by gilded recollections of les Années Folles, but Agnès Poirier tackles the equally effervescent history of the evocative Left Bank in the 1940s. Despite the harrowing specter of WWII and the Occupation, Paris retained its crucial role as a lure for some of the 20th century’s most fascinating thinkers, writers, artists—including Miles Davis, Simone de Beauvoir, Saul Bellow, and Juliette Greco, and James Baldwin, to name a few. Poirier’s Left Bank carefully chronicles the true tales of their time in Paris, charting the intersection of politics, literature, sexuality, and the arts, making for an informative and gripping read.

See more on Amazon here.

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Much has been made of Ernest Hemingway’s Paris, but Paula McLain gives voice to Hadley Richardson’s story in The Paris Wife. In 1920, the quiet 28 year old meets the young Ernest Hemingway at a party in Chicago. A whirlwind courtship follows, and soon the young couple sets off for bohemian Paris where they rub elbows with Lost Generation figures like Gertrude Stein, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, and eventually meet Pauline Pfeiffer—Hadley’s friend who eventually becomes Hemingway’s stylish second wife. Despite heavy research, The Paris Wife is a smooth, fun read, though Hadley’s seemingly endless well of forgiveness for her husband’s antics can become aggravating.

See more on Amazon here.

These Dividing Walls by Fran Cooper

At the height of the summer, Edward arrives in Paris to stay with his friend’s aunt in an apartment building in a forgotten corner of the Left Bank. The young anglophone slowly immerses himself in the life of the quartier, experiencing the highs and lows of Parisian life as he grieves the death of his sister. Fran Cooper’s debut These Dividing Walls captures the tangled lives of a quartier—namely the politics within a single apartment building—while simultaneously tackling the rise of nationalism without sacrificing character and plot. Engaging and immersive, These Dividing Walls depicts a city beyond the confines of picturesque, postcard Paris.

See more on Amazon here.

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

Bull fights, fist fights, and bottomless booze—The Sun Also Rises neatly encapsulated Hemingway’s sparse, masculine aesthetic. Though the novel does take us to Pamplona in search of bull fights, Papa’s first novel aptly captures the spirit of the Left Bank’s café society. We follow Jake Barnes through the watering holes and bal musettes of St. Germain and Montparnasse, meeting Lady Brett Ashley—his unattainable love interest—and a raucous gang of British and American expats who booze their way through the City of Light. While it’s occasionally necessary to shake off some of Hemingway’s questionable comments, The Sun Also Rises is arguably one of his most spirited works.

See more on Amazon here.

Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys

Melancholy and atmospheric, Good Morning, Midnight renders an unsparing depiction of a woman in crisis. Returning to Paris after years abroad, the now middle aged Sasha Jansen haunts the streets she used to frequent. Accustomed to relying on the kindness of strange men to pay her way, Sasha is confronted with the harsh realities of life as a financially unstable, single woman whose fading beauty is her only social currency. Jean Rhys’s Paris is one of solitary walks, cheap cafés, and missed connections. Pensive and somber, yet vital, Rhys’s loosely autobiographical novel acts as an indispensable foil to Lost Generation narratives marked by financial excesses.

See more on Amazon here.

Murder on the Left Bank by Cara Black

Cara Black’s latest installment of her Aimée Leduc series begins in the 13th, as a dying man drags himself into lawyer Éric Besson’s office. Confessing to 50 years of assisting the Paris police with money laundering, he insists that Besson handles his case right away. When Besson’s assistant (and nephew) is murdered while en route to La Proc with the evidence, a heartbroken Besson turns to Aimée Leduc for assistance. Pick up Murder on the Left Bank for a suspenseful and lively summer page-turner.

See more on Amazon here.

About the Author:

Lauren Sarazen graduated from Chapman University with a BFA in Creative Writing, and is currently pursuing a Master’s at Université Sorbonne Nouvelle. Lauren has contributed articles for online publications such as Paste Magazine, LensCulture, and Teen Vogue. She currently lives in Paris. Catch up with her on her blog or Instagram.

 

Interested in Discovering more about the Left Bank?

See our mini-guides on the 5ème arrondissement and on the 6ème arrondissement.

Or if you would like more Paris reading suggestions see Lauren’s article on Alternative Love Stories for Valentine’s Day or … get a copy of one of my books!

2 Comments

Leave a Reply to Ron Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *