Today is Bastille Day – a French holiday commemorating the beginning of the French Revolution in the late eighteenth century. On this date in 1789, crowds stormed a prison known as the Bastille, broke it open, and released the prisoners inside. Since the prison was symbolic of the powers of the king, its fall marked the beginning of the revolution, and the downfall of the monarchy.
If you are interested in viewing this part of French history through fiction, or if you are simply a Francophile and enjoy any stories set in â€œMarianne,â€ there are many wonderful books to choose from. Grab a cafÃ© au lait and a croissant, get comfortable, and consider any of these half dozen titles to get you started.
Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly (2011 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults)
Andi is a modern day New York teen, forced to spend her winter break in Paris with her father. She’s angry at the world after the death of her little brother, and nothing seems to be able to get her to care about anything. While in Paris, Andi finds a journal belonging to a young actress named Alexandrine and finds comfort in its words. Alexandrine won’t mind her privacy being invaded – she lived more than 200 years ago, during the French Revolution. As Andi reads about Alexandrine’s struggles, she feels herself growing closer to the actress until one night, their two personalities seem to merge. Has Andi traveled through time?
Just One Day by Gayle Forman
Allyson is at the end of her three week, post-graduation trip in Europe. She’s a meticulous, careful, thoughtful person and her trip has been the same – well planned, not a detail left to chance. When she meets Willem, a lively, itinerant actor, and he invites her to spend a day with him in Paris, she should say no. This is not on her itinerary! But Allyson says yes, and has an amazing 24 hour adventure with Willem in the City of Lights; romantic, risky, fun, exciting, and challenging. Maybe breaking out of her careful plans is the best thing that could happen to her.
The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner
An unusual group of people band together during the French Revolution. Yann, a young, gypsy orphan works for a magician, along with Tetu, a dwarf who is Yann’s guardian. When the magician is murdered, and Yann’s life is threatened, Tetu and Yann should flee France. But the Revolution is beginning, and a lovely young noble woman to whom Yann is attached, Sido, is in danger, precluding his escape from the Terror.
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins (2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults)
A fun love-story that includes wonderful descriptions of the City Of Lights and life within it. Anna is very upset at her father for sending her to a Parisian boarding school for her senior year. But after she meets the charming Etienne, she thinks life in Paris might not be so bad after all. It’s a pity Etienne has a girlfriend…
The Ruby Notebook by Laura Resau
Zeeta and her mother travel the world, settling in a different country every year. This year they are in France, and while her mother teaches English, sixteen year old Zeeta studies, writes in her notebook, makes friends with a group of street performers, and finds she has a secret admirer (whom she calls her fantÃ´me). While on a quest for a mysterious, underground spring that is said to give immortal life, Zeeta and her love Wendell question their own relationship, try to discover the nature of love itself, and get an enormous surprise when they discover Zeeta’s fantÃ´me’s identity.
Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross (2014 Morris Award finalist)
Maude, like many teens, dreams of a glamorous life in the big city. She runs away from home to Paris, where she quickly runs out of money. But in the late nineteenth century, when this story is set, plain-looking girls could get jobs as repoussoirs, beauty foils, girls who accompany young nobles to make the nobles look more beautiful in contrast. Maude’s young noble, Isabelle, has no idea Maude is her foil. She enjoys Maude’s company and a real friendship grows. Should Maude come clean to Isabelle? If she does, her job will certainly end, and she’ll be out on the streets. But if she continues the charade, she’ll be lying to a girl who has come to mean a lot to her.
~ Geri Diorio, currently reading Neuromancer by William Gibson