Books and Friendship Without Borders

Jacqueline Dubois Pasquier responded to a post featuring author and editor Maggie Scott’s thoughts on successful historical fiction. Turns out that Jacqueline is the founding facilitator of a bookclub for an online magazine called MyFrenchLife. How could I resist a combination of books set in France, a book club, and a site titled MyFrenchLife?

Here’s Jacqueline to tell us all about this unique book club group.

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The beginning at MyFrenchLife™

MyFrenchLife™ is an online magazine and a community of francophiles around the world which was founded by a francophile Judy MacMahon, some 14 years ago. Her idea at the time was to create a magazine that reflected the French lives of others and offered its readers an experience of France beyond the clichés. It quickly found a very  large audience. I joined the team of contributors in 2012, upon my return to France after 20 years abroad, I was eager to share my own French life both from the point of view of a native and ‘an expat’, who was rediscovering her own country.

The French Book Club  

I have always had a passion for literature and been an avid reader in both English and French. As a matter of fact, this is what the majority of the members who read the magazine have in common. They express their love of French literature and yearn to know more about contemporary French writers.

In January 2018, best-seller and 2016 Goncourt prize winner  ‘Chanson Douce’ by Leïla Slimani was published in the English-speaking world under the title ‘Lullaby’ (UK) and ‘The Perfect Nanny’ (US), translated by  Sam Taylor. Simultaneously, this book and its author received such a lot of attention from the critics and literary circles that it was impossible not to notice it.

It was therefore the ideal pick and opportunity combined for starting a book club : The ‘MyFrenchlife™ Recently-translated French Fiction Book club’ (I know it sounds like it was directly inspired from the  ‘Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’ 🙂

Here’s a link to the discussion we had of Chanson Douce/Perfect Nanny.

This type of book club, reading recently-translated French fiction, was unique at the time. Since then some have followed our example, which suggests that it is a sought after forum and format.

How do we function?

On line : Since our inception we have read 24 novels at the rate of 4 to 6 a year. We have a dedicated facebook private group to engage in discussions, all announcements are made on the different platforms where MyFrenchlife™Magazine  is present: online magazinefacebookgoodreadsinstagram and substack. It’s not necessarily easy to facilitate a book club online among people living in so many different parts of the world (often 9 timezones!), keeping track of updates and discussions and as such I am grateful for learning a new expression in English : ‘to herd cats’ . That’s how it feels sometimes, ‘herding cats!’

Live gatherings: The first 2 years of its existence we managed to hold book club meetings in Paris with members who were visiting or living there (at the café of “Le Musée de la Vie Romantique” or the ‘Josephine Bar’ of the Hôtel Lutetia for example). Then there was covid and we started  zoom discussions!

Since then we also hold online events at the culmination of reading each book. These are popular, lively events, where people make connections, learn more about French literature, authors and translators, and generally enjoy themselves.

Projects: Apart from the discussions, questions, updates, interviews, we have also enhanced our reading experience with other activities and suggestions such as a book exchange project and a Summer reading list.

We remain a human-sized group and are an average of 50 readers or so who are not necessarily the same for each session.

In Conclusion

I personally have a preference for historical novels and this is the reason why our last read, following the release of the film Napoleon by Ridley Scott , was the first novel of the ‘Josephine Trilogy’ by Sandra Gulland (an exception to our normal practice of reading recently-translated French novels). This is how, from Sandra via Maggie Scott, her historical consultant, I came across A Writer of History, author M.K. Tod’s blog.

Our next read ‘The Postcard’ by Anne Berest is also historical since it delves into the mystery of a family whose members died at Auschwitz in 1942. 

Although I guide our choice of books and lead most discussions, I am not alone in this adventure. Judy MacMahon, whom I quoted above, as the founder and owner of MyFrenchLife™ always reads with us, plans, organizes, publishes, edits, connects, and supports. This book club would not exist if it was not for her energy, hard work and kind supervision. I cherish our friendship.

Jacqueline Dubois Pasquier is the founding Facilitator of the Book Club associated with MyFrenchLife. She has held that position for 6 years. Jacqueline is French and lives between Paris and the South of France. She has a ‘Masters in French Studies’ and a ‘Masters in English Studies’ and has completed a ‘Post-Master Memoir’ on literature and psychoanalysis. Further, she has taught Literature internationally for many years. Jacqueline, helps readers and those of the MyFrenchLife community gain a deeper understanding of France, its people, French history, and culture.

For a link to some of Jacqueline’s articles, click here.

Many thanks for sharing news about MyFrenchLife and its book club, Jacqueline. It’s exciting to hear about such a unique book club. Your experience reminds me of the Iranian twins who founded an English-language book club in Iran.

For more on book clubs:

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION  FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY. Use the SUBSCRIBE function on the right hand side of the page.

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel is THE ADMIRAL’S WIFE, a dual timeline set in Hong Kong. Mary’s other novels, PARIS IN RUINS, TIME AND REGRET, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

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Meet M.K.Tod

The historical fiction author behind A Writer of History...

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