Professor Lance Donaldson-Evans presents a detailed, entertaining, informative and culturally indulgent synopsis of 100 great masterpieces written in French over ten centuries from medieval times to the Renaissance to the 19th and 20th centuries by authors from France and French-speaking countries to include Belgium, Africa and the Caribbean.
Each book entry includes not only a synopsis of the book but also information behind the book about the author’s personal life and the historical, social and political context which shapes each story. Donaldson-Evans’ lively telling of the historical and cultural setting for each entry makes this book rich in detail.
The range of authors and genres covered also makes for a fascinating read. One Hundred Great French Books includes male and female authors from a range of French-speaking countries writing everything from well-known stories, such as the provocative Madam Bovary by Gustave Flaubert and Voltaire’s satirical novel Candide (inspired by a massive earthquake followed by a tidal wave that hit Lisbon in 1755) to the memoirs of Jean Renoir (one of the sons of Impressionist painter Auguste Renoir) in My Life and My Films and observations by Ambrose Pare, a 16th-century surgeon (who pioneered a new treatment for gunshot wounds as well as inventing a salve to treat infections) in his book On Monsters and Marvels to France’s well-loved comic character Asterix (“the brilliant comedy and well researched history” based on the struggle between the Gauls and the invading Romans in the first century BCE). The selection of books is tall and tantalizing; the information and mini history lessons encompassed behind the scenes of each book is enriching.
Donaldson-Evans writes in his forward that the idea behind his book is not to present the ‘best’ 100 French books, nor is it aimed at specialists of French literature. Instead, the intention behind the book, geared for the general reader, is to introduce some of the most important and intriguing “French” books. The approximately two-page synopsis and entries for each book are written to introduce the reader to the “panorama of French literature” and “the influence the culture of France has had throughout the ages.” If you amazingly cannot find anything to whet your appetite in the 100 entries of the book, Donaldson-Evans includes an Afterword chronologically listing 50 more suggestions for companion books, plus stand-alone books by some of the same authors and other authors not included in the main body of the text.
One Hundred Great French Books is an easy and pleasurable read whether you choose to read it in a chronological, linear fashion, or read it in short sections, by each period that is covered, or singularly by each title. The author writes with clarity and wit, teasing you with historical and social tidbits of the period in which each masterpiece is written that leaves you wanting to discover more. Highly recommended.
[Also by this author: Structures sonores de
l'humanisme en France: de Maurice Sceve.(Book review): An article from:
Renaissance Quarterly and
Love's fatal glance: A
study of eye imagery in the poets of the ecole lyonnaise (Romance monographs;