5 Engrossing Novels to Keep Anxiety at Bay!

We can’t remember a time where we felt a more urgent need to distance ourselves from stress and anxiety. And as all readers will do, we turn to books to keep a healthy routine, to find calm and solace and to restore our sense of self.
With this in mind, we have selected five compelling, engrossing novels that should offer you a welcome escape!

Good old days, here we come!

Reading List

La Serpe by Philippe Jaenada

One morning in 1941, a young man named Henri Girard calls for help. During the night, his father, his aunt, and their servant have been savagely murdered and he is the only one to have survived.
But the circumstances of the slaughter soon turn him into the main suspect: all the doors were locked, there are no signs of someone having tried to break in, none of the family jewels are missing, and the police find cash in the drawers.
More importantly, the murder weapon is a billhook that Henri had borrowed from the neighbors a couple of days before. After the trial and his exoneration, Henri goes into exile in South America, coming back to France years later with the manuscript of Le Salaire de la peur–which becomes an instant bestseller and gets adapted into the legendary movie by Henri-Georges Clouzot.

Jaenada excels in telling stories about famous murders — in which he appears as a detective pursuing his leads, mixing the past and the present, and bending the genres of autofiction and the detective novel — and in keeping his readers on their toes.
La Serpe, a novel by Philippe Jaenada, laureate of the 2017 Femina Prize, Julliard.
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Ma Dévotion by Julia Kerninon

Ma dévotion, Julia Kerninon’s fourth novel, is a subtle, captivating, and insightful exploration of the mysterious interlacings between love, submission, and creation.

Helen and Franck, both born into high-ranking diplomatic families, are high school students when they meet in Rome. In no time, they detect in each other the wounded child hidden beneath their golden social status. And thus their fusional relationship begins–a dangerous and explosive mix of love and friendship.
Immediately after Helen’s graduation, they leave their past and family behind to move in together in her apartment in Amsterdam. While Helen immerses herself in her studies and begins a promising academic career, Frank, after a few difficult years, makes a spectacular debut on the Dutch Art scene with his first paintings. As Frank becomes internationally famous, Helen remains by his side, overseeing all the domestic details of his life in almost total self-abnegation.

As you make your way into the story, you cannot help but wonder who the introverted Helen and the flamboyant Franck really are. Victims? Monsters? Kerninon’s novel, full of masterfully orchestrated twists and turns, leaves these distinctions behind, and progresses into fascinatingly opaque territories.

Ma Dévotion de Julia Kerninon, éditions du Rouergue.
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4321 by Paul Auster

An ample family fresco, Paul Auster’s magisterial 4321 is his most recent novel and situates itself within the long tradition of great American novels.
Unmatched in energy and ambition, it retraces a century of American history and bears witness to the fascination for chance and destiny that have come to define this most European of the great American novelists.

The grandson of a Russian Jew who arrived at Ellis Island in 1900, Archibald Ferguson grows up in Newark, where his father runs an appliance store and his mother works as a photographer.

An unrivaled storyteller, Auster allows us to participate in four of the possible existences for each of these characters drawn from the American middle class in the mid-twentieth century.

4321, a novel by Paul Auster, in a superb translation by Gerard Meudal, Editions Actes Sud.
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Les Inconsolés by Minh Tran Huy

The present eludes me as it always has, the past still lives in me, my dead ones breathe in my heart and soul, even though I forbid myself to mention their names, they follow my every move and thought.”

said Line, the narrator of  Voyageur malgré lui, Minh Tran Huy’s previous novel. We knew the author’s predilection for tragic love stories, Vietnamese legends, and mysterious plots. The ghosts of love’s labour’s lost return to center stage in her sophisticated new novel that reads like a romantic whodunit. Read more.

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Forêt obscure by Nicole Krauss

Just like L’Histoire de l’amour (The History of Love), Forêt obscure unfurls in alternate chapters with the respective stories of a retired lawyer (Jules Epstein) and a young successful novelist (Nicole). These two characters – whose lives seem to have nothing in common besides the fact that they were both conceived at the Tel Aviv Hilton Hotel– will eventually find themselves adrift in the same Israeli desert at the end of a transcendental search. And it is this sense of being unmoored that sets this novel apart from the rest of the author’s body of work.
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Forêt obscure, a novel translated from the English (US) by Paule Guivarch, éditions de l’Olivier