As a self-described bookworm, I’m always on the lookout for new contemporary authors. I do enjoy the classics, but sometimes they can feel outdated. I’m also always interested in adding more female authors to my to-be-read pile, because, let’s face it, women writers were given the short end of the stick for centuries. Things have changed (a little) these days, and there are plenty of fabulous female writers to discover. And, because I live in Paris and have been learning French for years now, I like to dabble in French books too. Sometimes it’s a challenge, but it’s one that I enjoy.
If you’re looking for some new female French authors to add to your reading list too, look no further. And, don’t worry. If you don’t speak French, you can always opt for the English version.
First up on my list is Annie Ernaux, a French memorialist who published her first novel in 1974. It marked the beginning of a beautiful career that continues to be centered on autobiographies. Her most recently published book, “Mémoire de fille” (“A Girl’s Story”), came out in 2016. Ernaux’s work tends to blend her own experiences with stories that she’s heard, as well as historical events. I was recently gifted “Les Années” (“The Years“), a memoir about life in France after the Second World War up until 2006, and I can’t wait to get started!
Vanessa Springora made waves with the publication of her first and only novel, “Le Consentement” (“Consent: A Memoir”) in early 2020. It is an autobiographical work that brought to light a relationship that she had with the famous French writer Gabriel Matzneff (then 49) when she was just 14 years old.
Although Matzneff has been making references to his preferences towards underage girls in his books for years, Springora’s memoir illustrates the damage caused by such an inappropriate relationship. I look forward to reading more of her work in the future, and as difficult as it was to get through “Le Consentement,” it is worth the read.
If you’ve seen the French movie “Chanson Douce” (“The Perfect Nanny”), then you may have heard of Leïla Slimani’s work without even realizing it! It’s based on Slimani’s novel of the same name, which went on to win the Prix Goncourt, a prestigious French literary award, in 2016. Slimani is a French-Moroccan author who also serves as a French diplomat for an international organization that represents Francophone countries like her native Morocco.
I immediately became interested in Mas after I read her novel. She is only a few years older than I am and has already has a debut under her belt, “Le bal des folles“ (“The Mad Women’s Ball”).The book, although being a work of historical fiction, takes place in a real hospital in Paris. The English translation of the book is scheduled to be published in 2021.
I was introduced to Victoria Mas through a book club in Paris that I belong to called The FBC Paris. If you’re interested in discovering some incredible female authors, I definitely encourage you to look into it! As of now, all of their sessions on done on Zoom, so anyone in the world can join.
I first discovered Yasmina Reza when I was in a French language course in my early years in Paris. Reza is most well known for her plays, but many of them read like a novel. I personally loved “Le Dieu du carnage” (“God of Carnage”). If you want to try your hand at reading in French and you’re a beginner, I definitely suggest it.
Reza specializes in satire and much of her work is centered on middle-class families and their struggles. She has won many awards over the course of her career, including several Molière Awards for best author.
Delphine de Vigan
Delphine de Vigan’s debut novel, “No et moi” (“No and Me”), took the French literary world by storm in 2007. The book tells the story of an unexpected friendship that develops between two teenage girls: one who is gifted and has an IQ of 160, and one who is homeless and living in poverty.
Her breakout novel won several prizes, was translated into over twenty different languages, and has even been made into a film. After the success of her book, De Vigan decided to write full-time and has since published several other works including “Rien ne s’oppose à la nuit” (“Nothing Holds Back the Night”) and “D’après une histoire vraie” (“Based on a True Story”), which is her first psychological thriller.
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