A literary traveller – and all things French

Today we hand over the reins to Emma Cazabonne of the book blog Words and Peace. She is an English to French literary translator and loves French books and books set in France in particular!. Emma it’s over to you:

Emma-in-Shakespeare-and-Company
Emma in her favourite place – Shakespeare and Company Bookstore in Paris

Bonjour and thank you for having me today at The Book Trail.

I was born and raised in France, growing up in the Champagne and the Burgundy regions. I was an English teacher in France and when I came to live in the US fifteen years ago, I started teaching French online. I’m also an English to French literary translator  I am also an artist, painting almost exclusively on rocks.

1. Hi Emma you write the Words And Peace blog which features all things French and books set in France. Why did you start writing this blog?

Actually my book blog, Words And Peace, is very eclectic. I also review lots of historical novels for instance, not set in France, mysteries and nonfiction, among other genres!

Those who know me in real life notice that I can’t refrain from talking about what I read. When I discovered there was a species called ‘book bloggers’, who keep raving about the books they love, I knew I had to join! So I launched Words And Peace just 5 years ago, for a larger place to review the books I love and connect with other book lovers.

2. You’re planning to read So You Don’t Get Lost in the Neighborhood by Patrick Modiano set in Paris. Why did you choose this book and can you tell us more about it?

You may remember that French author Patrick Modiano won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2014. I have loved his novels since I was a teenager. This novel is his latest, published just a few weeks before he got the award.

I was planning to read it in the original language of course, but it was right there on display at my (awesome) publish library. So really, how could I hesitate? I actually plunged into it right away, as I had to wait for someone, and before I left the library, I had already read a third of the book! Did anyone say I am a passionate reader? Lol

I’m not going to review it here, but I can say that it’s a typical Modiano novel, with a “greyish” ambiance, with characters that show up in previous books by him, and where the main character is actually the city of Paris itself. This novel is in between literary fiction and mystery. A short, perfect introduction to Modiano for those who don’t know him yet.

3. Book bingo is a smart feature of your blog. From your 2015 bingo card, can you tell us of a romance book set in France and one with a French word in the title that you would recommend?

Thanks! I have organized a French Challenge for several years, and I thought a bingo twist would be fun for this year.

I personally do not read much romance, but I highly recommend this historical novel, based on a most famous medieval French couple, with a lot of romance and heartache involved: The Sharp Hook of Love, by Sherry Jones

An amazing one with a French word would be Mademoiselle Chanel, by  C. W. Gortner. Stunning!

4. France Book Tours is your virtual book tour company where you showcase books set in France and invite readers to review them on their own book blogs. Why is it important for you to write about books set in your native country and/or written by native writers?

When I got seriously into the world of book blogging, I started signing up to review books for virtual book tours. I noticed virtual book tour companies were usually specialized in a specific genre.

At the same time, I got aware of the impressive number of books published every month that were written in English but set in France, or about France. So I knew this was an undiscovered niche I had to tackle, and that’s how France Book Tours was born.

Americans are very fond of France, but not everyone can afford to travel there on a regular basis. So why not travel through books, right? And when you can get these books for free, what’s not to love? Our readers receive the book for free, they just commit to review it on their own book blog at a specific date, just like it works for any other virtual book tour company.

We also feature books originally written in French and then translated in English: there’s a real mine of amazing writers in France, but if you don’t read French, you may not even hear about them. So if their books get translated, I want as many English readers as possible to discover them.

5. You are a French translator and have translated several novels. Which has been the hardest or most enjoyable to translate and why?

The most challenging has certainly been my very first historical novel, Orgueil et honneur, written by Nathaniel Burns. It’s a rather long novel set at the time of Charlemagne. I had to do a lot of research, for instance on how you would address a bishop in French at that period. Plus, I did this translation through a specific company that has not yet paid me one cent for my hard work…

My most enjoyable translation is a contemporary mystery set in the South of the US: Au nord de Folly-sur-mer, by author Tanya Anne Crosby. It’s a fun book, with great descriptions of the surrounding landscapes, very lively dialogs, and wonderful job in character development.
When a book has so much substance, even though translating is always a difficult challenge, it requires all your creativity, and so is very enjoyable.

Actually I also translated the sequel, just as great, À l’ouest de la mort, and the prequel, Les derniers moments de Florence W. Aldridge.

I’m currently translating another novel by the same author, this time set in Scotland in the 13th century!

6. Can you recommend us some of your favourite books set in France?

(the Da Vinci code really sparked a influx of readers to the Louvre and Saint Sulpice. can you tell us of a place which is important literary style to yourself in some way?)

OMG, there are so many! I have read 30 books set in France so far this year, so I’m going to pick a few titles from this year only.

One of the last great historical novels I read is The Sisters of Versailles, by Sally Christie. It’s great to see that publishers are finally slowly discovering that the French court was just as interesting as the Tudors.

There’s a French mystery writer I really enjoy: The City of Blood, by Frédérique Molay.

And I really enjoyed this short literary novel, about a short ride between Champagne and Paris: The 6:41 to Paris, by Jean-Philippe Blondel.

To discover more, just follow the I Love France Category on my blog.

I don’t have a specific literary place important to me. But I lived in the Champagne region and often too the train, so this last book resonated a lot with me.


Also, I love the Burgundy region where I spent many years, so it’s always fun bumping into it in books. For instance, there’s a whole series translated from the French, about a detective who is also a winemaker. Each cozy mystery in the series focuses on a different wine region. The one on Burgundy is Nightmare in Burgundy, by Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen.

One of my pictures taken in Burgundy:

Words-and-peace-burgundy
Burgundy (c) Words and Peace

Thanks for having me today and for your wonderful questions.

Your readers can follow my reading activity on my blog: Words And Peace.

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And there are always great books available for free to review on France Book Tours, as well as giveaways organized every month.