15 best books by French writers

Review of the best according to the editorial board. On the selection criteria. This material is subjective and does not constitute advertising and does not serve as a purchase guide. Before buying, you need to consult with a specialist.

In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, French literature has risen to a new level. Many geniuses have appeared, whose talent to this day makes readers travel through the pages of their works, living life with the heroes. The past centuries have given the world such writers as Emile Zola, Gustave Flaubert, Georges Sand, Victor Marie Hugo, Honore de Balzac. Some were close to philosophy, such as Albert Camus. These and other authors at that time acted as legislators of literary trends, and their works had a serious impact on world culture.

The experts present to the attention of the rating, which includes the 15 best books by French writers, worthy of the attention of everyone who wants to be considered a person versed in literature.

Rating of the best books by French writers

Nomination a place composition rating
Rating of the best books by French writers 1 Obermann, Etienne Pivert de Senancourt 5.0
2 The Outsider, Albert Camus 4.9
3 Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas 4.8
4 Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert 4.7
5 Dear friend, Guy de Maupassant 4.6
6 Les Miserables, Victor Marie Hugo 4.5
7 Plague, Albert Camus 4.4
8 The Phantom of the Opera, Gaston Leroux 4.3
9 Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett 4.2
10 Dangerous Liaisons, Chollerlo de Laclos 4.1
11 The Counterfeiters, André Gide 4.1
12 Pebbled leather, Honore de Balzac 4.0
13 Countess of Rudolstadt, Georges Sand 4.0
14 The Legend of Ulenspiegel, Charles de Coster 4.0
15 Parma monastery, Stendhal 4.0

Obermann, Etienne Pivert de Senancourt

Category: French literature

Book rating: 5.0

Etienne Pivert de Senancourt 'Obermann'

Senakura's novel is a true confession of the hero's soul. Disappointed in himself and in society, he still remains a dreamer, despite the feeling of endless loneliness experienced. The work was not immediately appreciated by the public, becoming popular only during the heyday of romanticism. Balzac spoke about him, not stingy with praise, and calling it 'the most beautiful book of the era'. Delacroix and Franz Liszt were also fond of the novel, considering it one of the best.

The story, published in 1804, tells of a strange, but uncommon character for his time, a man. He does not know who he is or what he wants; is in constant anguish, for which there is no apparent reason; aimlessly strives and wanders in the hustle and bustle of suffering. His pessimistic sentiments did not affect philanthropy, but life consisted only of dreams, since with all his contemptuous attitude to the ordinariness and everyday life, Oberman is unable to perform a feat due to a weak will. The novel cannot boast of an eventful plot, is full of thoughts and reasoning on a variety of topics, but thanks to this it is an excellent example of epistolary prose with many lyrical digressions and philosophical notes.

The Outsider, Albert Camus

Category: French literature

Book rating: 4.9

Albert Camus 'The Outsider'

This unusual work of the writer, Nobel laureate, is still of interest to lovers of literature with a philosophical bias. The story conveys deep, sometimes depressing thoughts, but the classic of existentialism was able to interest readers in the best way possible, even within such a gloomy atmosphere. The main character of the book is a brave, free man who can die defending his beliefs. Meursault is imprisoned awaiting the death penalty for a murder committed by accidental stupidity. Readers will have to find out what the motives of the executioners who demanded the capital punishment are. Perhaps they judge him for something else – the audacity to remain oneself, not obeying other people's rules, remaining an outsider for society.

The story begins with the words: 'Mom died today. Or maybe yesterday – I don't know. ' To some, this will seem inhuman, but such was the hero – not accepted by society, causing negative feelings. The author puts him in a situation of extremes, where there is a choice between life and death, which, in turn, should lead to an epiphany. What will the 'outsider' choose in the end? The reader will go all the way of loneliness together with Meursault, who is among people, but hates them, which will be especially pronounced at the trial.

Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas

Category: French literature

Book rating: 4.8

Alexandre Dumas 'The Count of Monte Cristo'

One of the most popular books of the classics excites the minds of modern readers, fans of adventure novels. They wrote sequels to the work, filmed it, created performances, musicals. Countless editions of the 'Count of Monte Cristo' have been issued in more than a hundred years of existence. The author took inspiration from the archives of the Parisian police. There he found a story about a man, a young Parisian, who, as a joke of friends, went to prison. This formed the basis of the storyline, thanks to which the world recognized the martyr of the castle of If. Dantes does not wait for justice, deciding to independently administer the court and take revenge on the enemies that destroyed his happiness.

The main character can and can do everything, but even such a noble and talented man can turn out to be a criminal. Becoming 'straight as an arrow' is difficult. For this, it is sometimes necessary to cross the line, passing through the thorns, in order to come out again as a pure person. Fate favored Edmond. He was happy, naive and innocent. Met with his beloved Mercedes. The father supported and promoted the guy, waiting for his son, a sailor from the voyages. In an instant, everything changes, and previously unnoticed envious people step in. A chain of random events is woven tightly, allowing the evil plan to come true.

Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert

Category: French literature

Book rating: 4.7

Gustave Flaubert 'Madame Bovary'

The author entered world literature as the creator of objective novels, when the writer is above the situation, remaining an impassive observer, not giving the reader his assessment of what is happening. 'Madame Bovary' is a prime example of this genre. Flaubert worked on the work for six years, reflecting the true provincial life of the nineteenth century. Dreaming of a social life, Emma is just the wife of a doctor, so meeting Rodolphe, who owns the estate, but also a famous conqueror of ladies' hearts, gives hope for a comfortable life in the circles of the elites. Feelings overshadow the eyes, which leads to an unpredictable outcome.

Emma Bovary suffers all her life, being in the confidence that the meaning of existence lies only in love bliss. Even in religion, the heroine does not find happiness. She does not see Charles's sincere feelings, dreaming about the chivalrous deeds described in love stories. In an attempt to fill the seeming void with bright but destructive emotions, Emma falls into the trap of a boring marriage, then, languishing in idleness, invents falling in love, and losing it, succumbs to the courtship of a passionate womanizer. For the insincere merchant, Bovary is an easy prey, which is 'glad to be deceived'.

Dear friend, Guy de Maupassant

Category: French literature

Book rating: 4.6

Guy de Maupassant 'Dear Friend'

The novel became at one time a reference book for women of different ages. Today he clearly demonstrates how you can seduce women while remaining cold-blooded, insensitive and self-serving. The mercantile spirit of Georges Dubois puts the hero in a situation where pure feelings are only a means for materially supporting his own life. He uses deception and manipulation, and also uses good looks to succeed and break into high society, which is quite successful.

Georges enters into an intimate relationship with one or another married lady, giving them passionate pleasures in exchange for earthly benefits. The author describes in great detail the psychological portrait of the protagonist, explaining certain motives of behavior. Despite all the disgusting behavior and cynicism, a dear friend is the same person, like all of us, with his own merits and demerits. Maupassant forces everyone to think about situations despite the desire to condemn.

Les Miserables, Victor Marie Hugo

Category: French literature

Book rating: 4.5

Victor Marie Hugo 'Les Miserables'

The novel is recognized as one of the best in classical world literature. The names of the heroes of the work – Jean Valjean, Gavroche, Cosette have become household names. A century and a half have passed since the book was published, but the number of readers does not decrease, and the novel does not lose popularity. Here you will encounter a kaleidoscope of individuals from all walks of life in nineteenth-century French society. They have bright and memorable characters; they harmoniously combine romance and grotesque. The plot grips and does not let go until the last page is turned. The novel 'Les Miserables' was repeatedly filmed and shown on the stage.

The work is a monumental work that spanned fifteen years. The narrative is full of stories of misfortunes, joyful moments, trials. There are many reflections of Hugo himself. Although the book is voluminous, over four thousand pages, everyone should familiarize themselves with it. The reader will meet many different characters: the funny old man Gillenormand; unhappy Cosette with her future husband Marius; the cunning innkeeper Thenardier, poisoning the lives of those around him with vile deeds; policeman Javert, distinguished by his principles; the desperate convict Javert, forced to go a long way, full of physical and mental suffering; dreamers-revolutionaries and many others.

Plague, Albert Camus

Category: French literature

Book rating: 4.4

Albert Camus 'The Plague'

Camus' novel-parable is captivating from the very beginning. A small town, where the gentle sun shines for most of the year and the life of the locals flows unhurriedly, it is cut off from the rest of the world. Here comes trouble in the guise of death. A terrible disease first drives rats from the streets, which alarms one old man. Then the others notice the abnormal behavior of the animals. After the rats, the cats that were fed by the townspeople disappear, and after that people begin to die, going through the terrible torment that the plague carries.

A doctor living in Oran, Bernard Rieux, is the first to guess what is happening, but even to himself he is afraid to admit, to pronounce aloud the name of the disease. The epidemic, due to which the city is closed to entrances and exits, divides families and couples in love. Those who stayed outside because of their departure are trying to contact their relatives and friends, worrying about their lives, but the management decides to put up security. By passing on news to each other, people risk spreading the plague further. Attempts to organize an escape end in failure, but the disease continues to rage, streets empty, restaurants and shops close. The work allows you to think about the main thing – what is forgotten in the measured flow of days, months, years – troubles that fall without warning.

The Phantom of the Opera, Gaston Leroux

Category: French literature

Book rating: 4.3

Gaston Leroux 'The Phantom of the Opera'

Leroux's famous novel tells about the strange events taking place in the Paris Opera House. First, money disappears, then the singer, the number of fatal accidents increases. The work combines mysticism, adventure and romance. The book has been repeatedly filmed and staged in the theater, and also popularized by Webber, thanks to the Broadway musical. 'The Phantom of the Opera' is about selfless and devoted love. This storyline is one of the main, runs through the entire novel like a red thread. The author immerses the reader in a vibrant opera world. Dreaming of more, the Ghost is forced to be content with the basement, but his talent and amazing voice are amazing.

A furious and partly insane hoaxer, the main character appears wherever he wishes, inducing fear and dissolving into the shadows. Jealousy and passion take possession of this creature with a tragic fate. The more details emerge, the more the attitude of readers towards the Ghost changes. He is rejected by everyone, closed inside the opera house, away from the light. The desire to live among people remained unfulfilled. The ugliness on the outside is a tragedy, because the unappreciated one becomes the same ugly inside.

Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett

Category: French literature

Book rating: 4.2

Samuel Beckett 'Waiting for Godot'

Beckett's play is a tragicomedy that allows you to look at the human essence from the outside. We live in anticipation of life, such is the tautology. We are waiting for when we go from kindergarten to school, then to university; when we grow up and become adults; when we get a diploma and get a good job; when we retire. It seems that life is ahead, that the right moment has not yet come, and at this time the most important thing passes by.

The main characters, Vladimir and Estragon, are a reflection of us. They have no idea who Godou is, but they are waiting for him. The play describes two days, but the wait must have lasted before and will continue after. They have nowhere to live and have nothing to eat, existence has been turned into a living hell, but instead of decisive action, they hope for the coming of Godot. Well, of course, now he will appear, he will come any minute! At some point, Beckett introduces readers to two more heroes, Pozzo and Lucky, master and servant. Lakki even thinks at the click, although he does not fear the master. He waited for his Godot, without which he cannot live, because then he himself will have to make decisions and take responsibility.

Dangerous Liaisons, Chollerlo de Laclos

Category: French literature

Book rating: 4.1

Scholerlos de Laclos 'Dangerous Liaisons'

The brightest novel of French literature remained the only book by Laco who served as an officer-artilleryman. The work is written in the epistolary genre, therefore it is recommended to all fans of this kind. The main characters, the Marquis de Merteil and the Viscount de Valmont, wanting to take revenge on their opponents, come up with a sophisticated plan. They devise an ingenious strategy to seduce a certain innocent Cecile de Volange. A virtuoso game on the weaknesses and shortcomings of human nature is bearing fruit.

Representatives of the elite, in idle idleness, often indulge in intrigues in order to fill their time with at least something. The marquise not only turns the heads of men, dragging them into bed one by one, but also knows how to arrange loud scandals between aristocrats with someone else's hands, always remaining out of business. Having found for herself an equally immoral person as a partner, for whom it does not matter who and why to seduce, if only there is a quantity, she more and more goes beyond what is permitted. The main thing in the novel is not the censure of the villains, but the reader's reflections on the naivety of everyone around them, because it was because of their stupidity that vile deeds were committed.

The Counterfeiters, André Gide

Category: French literature

Book rating: 4.1

André Gide 'The Counterfeiters'

This work is significant not only for the author, but also for French literature of the twentieth century. The novel predicted the motives that later formed the basis of the creativity of the existentialists. The story introduces us to three families, between which the relationship is tangled. These representatives of the big bourgeoisie are united by crime, destructive passions and vice. It is against such a dirty background that two young people who have been friends since childhood are growing up. Each of them will have to follow their own path, learning how to educate feelings.

In addition to the main narrative, the writer includes in the novel the diaries of Edward, the writer, full of reflections on an unwritten work with the same name. At that time, metaromaniac was a new genre, but almost immediately the audience liked it. Bernard steals a suitcase from Edward with all its contents. Absorbed by the desire to break free, he runs away from home, but in all his aspirations there is insincerity. In general, the actions of all the heroes, seemingly generated by good intentions, are fake. Readers will have to find out who the real counterfeiters are – people with false values, living in permissiveness and impunity, or fraudsters who counterfeit coins.

Pebbled leather, Honore de Balzac

Category: French literature

Book rating: 4.0

Honore de Balzac 'Shagreen leather'

The author himself spoke about the work, calling it the starting point of the creative path. The main face of the novel is a man who has become the owner of pebbled skin, a powerful talisman who can make any desire come true. But what price does the hero have to pay? An ardent young man, Raphael, is at the beginning of the journey and does not suspect what awaits him in the end.

Witty and attractive, he decides to take advantage of natural data, seducing the fatal Theodora, belonging to a secular circle. The lady is already known for her ability to break men's hearts, despite her young age. He uses Raphael Theodora for the sake of the necessary connections, but the hero does not give up, making more and more attempts to gain favor. Lacking money, Raphael works as a piano teacher for the daughter of the landlord. The girl unrequitedly falls in love with a cynical youth, but he does not notice her mental anguish, dreaming of wealth, satin sheets and a carefree life. Describing a dramatic love triangle, Balzac simultaneously introduces readers to Paris, with its stunning buildings, bridges, gardens, which adds color and atmosphere to the book.

Countess of Rudolstadt, Georges Sand

Category: French literature

Book rating: 4.0

Georges Sand 'Countess of Rudolstadt'

The book continues another work by Georges Sand, 'Consuelo'. The story is based on a tragic clash between society and the artist; career, success and calm family life. The prototype of the novel was the famous French singer Pauline Viardot, who, by the way, was Turgenev's muse. The book is filled with mysticism and mystery. Here the theme of secret societies, occultism is revealed.

Consuelo marries and becomes Countess of Rudolstadt. She does not know who her father is, and even her mother would not give an answer to this question. Despite the difficult past, when rags were the only clothing, and wandering was the norm, Consuelo is smart, wise, talented and, most importantly, honest, therefore worthy of love and respect. The narration is somewhat similar to what we see in fairy tales. Here the reader meets beauties and monsters, princes and princesses, kings and peasants, witches and sinister dungeons, knights and impregnable towers. The novel scares and teaches. Sand invested in the creation of the idea of ​​a new world, society, people – a future to which the heroes are ready to sacrifice their lives, because it is worth the ardent aspirations of a young soul and determined will.

The Legend of Ulenspiegel, Charles de Coster

Category: French literature

Book rating: 4.0

Charles de Coster 'The Legend of Ulenspiegel'

The Belgian writer became famous thanks to this book, which tells about the hero of the Dutch and German epics. The adventures of the joker, rogue and tramp Thiel, accompanied by an owl sitting on his shoulder, still delights readers all over the world. Till will have to lead not only peasants and townspeople around his finger, but also undermine the foundations of the patriarchal Middle Ages. He is full of an independent spirit and strong will, therefore he is capable of the most decisive actions. The work is part of the series 'Classics of World Literature'.

Hercules, Conan, Kull stand aside when the comparison with Thiel Ulenspiegel is made. Forever young in soul and body, with a sparkling sense of humor, resourceful and witty, he is able to get out of any seemingly hopeless scrape. He has not steel, but a titanium rod inside, which can not break anything in this world. Events take place during the time of the Inquisition. King Philip is depicted as a cruel tyrant, accustomed to torturing animals from childhood, burning mice and monkeys alive. This concerns not only Philip – all characters are exaggerated by the author, therefore, if a negative character, then to disgust, and if positive, then to blind admiration. There is no duality here, but a lot of emotional intensity, which to this day attracts fans of action-packed literature.

Parma monastery, Stendhal

Category: French literature

Book rating: 4.0

Stendhal 'Parma Cloister'

The author's work was the last of the major ones. The novel describes the events taking place in Italy in the nineteenth century. At the heart of the fate of Fabrizio del Dongo, full of unexpected events and dramatic incidents. A dynamic plot with the secret of birth, escape from prison, experiences of passionately in love with each other, betrayal develops against the backdrop of the iconic Battle of Waterloo.

The collapse of the illusions of Italians who dreamed of the independence of their homeland is the reality that Stendhal depicted in the book. There are tangled knots of love behind everything. Hot and young Fabrizio goes to prison for the murder of his mistress's husband. He started her for a reason, but to hide the connection with his aunt-duchess, the embodiment of beauty. Gina Sanseverina lives in a marriage of convenience with an unloved man, and all for the sake of closeness to her married lover. The novel is full of vague intrigues. Only the lazy here does not get involved in another adventure, pursuing purely their own goals. This is what makes the work interesting, where the threads of many tangled destinies are intertwined into a single lump. The unpredictable ending will especially surprise readers.


Attention! This rating is subjective and does not constitute an advertisement and does not serve as a purchase guide. Before buying, you need to consult with a specialist.

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