Improve Your French with These Short Novels!

If you are studying a foreign language you quickly become aware of how important reading is in the learning process. But how do you pick the right book to read? How do you find a text that sparks your curiosity and keeps you engaged and determined to reach the end–despite the back and forth between your book and the dictionary? Below is a selection of carefully chosen short novellas to help you transform into a fluent French reader!


Reading List

Un Couple by Emmanuèle Bernheim

Emmanuèle Bernheim doesn’t need more than a mere hundred pages to break down the hesitations, misunderstandings, and fears that will undermine Loïc and Hélène’s budding relationship. In a succession of short scenes, the author brings to life the early stages of a Parisian romance, and how the ghosts of previous romantic involvements progressively get in the way and kill this new love story in the nest.

Un Couple by Emmanuèle Bernheim, Folio

Felicidad by Frédéric Berthet

Frédéric Berthet is the best-kept secret in French literature. A diplomat, literary critic, writer, and womanizer, Berthet was a remarkable figure with an exceptional sense of style who wrote with both lucidity and humor.

In Berthet’s world, women are unreliable, men are hesitant, and time moves too quickly to be stopped. His highly addictive work makes the reader crave after his soft melancholy, his absurd observations, and his heightened sensibilities.

Felicidad a novella by Frédéric Berthet, Folio
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Nos Viesby Marie-Hélène Lafon

In a supermarket in the 11th arrondissement of Paris, a lonely woman observes her fellow citizens and lets her imagination roam free about the ordinary lives around her, assembling the pieces of her own existence by doing so.
Marie-Hélène Lafon explores the solitude of urban life with remarkable delicacy, empathy, and elegance, her subtle prose capturing the fragility of family bonds.

Nos Vies, a novel by Marie-Hélène Lafon, Buchet Chastel
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La Femme aux pieds nusby Scholastique Mukasonga

Born in Rwanda in 1956, Scholastique Mukasonga experienced firsthand the violence and humiliation of the ethnic conflicts that shook her country. In 1960, her family was forced to move to Bugesera, a polluted and under-developed district of Rwanda. Though Scholastique fled to Burundi and then ultimately resettled in France in 1992, her relatives stayed behind and 27 of them were executed during the brutal genocide that swept through Rwanda in 1994.
In a straightforward and very accessible style, Mukasonga describes her family’s day-to-day life in a refugee camp in the days leading up to the horrifying events to come. While growing up, her mother repeatedly told her children to cover her body with a loincloth after her death. This text is her attempt to honor her mother’s memory: a shroud of loving words.

La Femme aux pieds nus a memoir by Scholastique Mukasonga, Folio.
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Maïmaïby by Aki Shimazaki

Born in Japan in 1954, Shimazaki has lived in Canada since 1981 and started learning French when she turned 40. A former school teacher, she is known for writing superb jewel-like novellas about identity and introspection. In a discreet and transparent voice, Shimazaki delivers masterful family sagas, where secrets, silences, and taboos move silently between the protagonists, shifting the course of their destinies. Her elegant and breezy style goes straight to the core of each of her characters, revealing the truth that hides behind our social masquerade.

Maïmaï by a novel Aki Shimazaki, Actes Sud
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After almost two decades of working in publishing, and a few round trips between Paris and New York, Miriam has decided to settle down at Albertine to do what she enjoys most: recommending books she loves. Somehow this also includes taking bizarre pictures for Albertine's social media outlets.
Other recommendations by Miriam Bridenne