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Ella Berthoud's Top Book Recommendations

Want to know what books Ella Berthoud recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of Ella Berthoud's favorite book recommendations of all time.


The Holy Terrors

Les Enfants Terribles holds an undisputed place among the classics of modern fiction. Written in a French style that long defied successful translation - Cocteau was always a poet no matter what he was writing - the book came into its own for English-language readers in 1955 when the present version was completed by Rosamond Lehmann. It is a masterpiece of the art of translation of which the Times Literary Supplement said: "It has the rare merit of reading as though it were an English original."

Miss Lehmann was able to capture the essence of Cocteau's strange, necromantic...
Recommended by Ella Berthoud, and 1 others.

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The Greengage Summer

A sixteen-year-old girl captures the dangerous attention of an older man in this New York Times–bestselling novel by the author of Black Narcissus.
Soon after the end of the terrible Great War, Mrs. Grey brings her five young children to the French countryside for the summer in hopes of instilling in them a sense of history and humility. But when she is struck down by a sudden illness and hospitalized, the siblings are left to fend for themselves at the lovely, bullet-scarred hotel Les Oeillets, under the suspicious, watchful eyes of its owner, Mademoiselle...
Recommended by Ella Berthoud, and 1 others.

Ella BerthoudThis was published in 1955. It’s a coming of age story narrated by a 13 year old girl called Cecil Grey, about her family going to a hotel in France. The father has gone off exploring in Nepal or somewhere, and the mother is bitten by a horsefly on the way down and is hospitalised for the next six weeks. So their five children find themselves temporarily parentless, in a hotel in France where... (Source)

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The Enchanted April

A discreet advertisement in The Times, addressed to "those who appreciate wisteria and sunshine," is the prelude to a revelatory month for four very different women. High above a bay on the Italian Riviera stands the medieval castle San Salvatore. Beckoned to this haven are Mrs. Wilkins, Mrs. Arbuthnot, Mrs. Fisher, and Lady Caroline Dester, each quietly craving a respite. Lulled by the gentle spirit of the Mediterranean, they gradually shed their public skins, discovering a harmony each of them has longed for but none has ever known. First published in 1922, this captivating novel is... more
Recommended by Gretchen Rubin, Ella Berthoud, and 2 others.

Gretchen RubinReading novels about happiness or seeing movies about happiness doesn’t necessarily make you feel happy. Sometimes you want to read a book that makes you feel happy and The Enchanted April is just one of the most charming books. It’s about four women who are each unhappy in their own ways and decide to take a break from grey England by renting a house in Italy, and their lives are completely... (Source)

Ella BerthoudAt the beginning of this book, two women in the 1920s are in a club in Hampstead [London] on a rainy day. They see a newspaper advert: “To those who appreciate wisteria and sunshine. Small medieval Italian castle to be let for the month of April.” Both go off into a reverie, and talk themselves into squandering their nest eggs on a month in this castle. They find two other people to join them – a... (Source)

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On Chesil Beach

A novel of remarkable depth and poignancy from one of the most acclaimed writers of our time.

It is July 1962. Florence is a talented musician who dreams of a career on the concert stage and of the perfect life she will create with Edward, an earnest young history student at University College of London, who unexpectedly wooed and won her heart. Newly married that morning, both virgins, Edward and Florence arrive at a hotel on the Dorset coast. At dinner in their rooms they struggle to suppress their worries about the wedding night to come. Edward, eager for rapture, frets over...
Recommended by Mona Simpson, Ella Berthoud, and 2 others.

Mona SimpsonWhat I love in this book is not even the main plot, though I like that too. What I really love, the family that is so fascinating to me, is his [Edward’s] family. The mother goes crazy, and her husband and children all accommodate it and live around it. I love that little world in the novel. (Source)

Ella BerthoudThis short novel is set in July 1962, when Edward Mayhew and Florence Ponting are just married. It’s about the first night of their marriage, on honeymoon in a Georgian hotel next to Chesil beach on the coast of Britain. The book describes their courtship and how they got to this point, then the crucial scene is what happens on their wedding night. Edward climaxes much too soon in his excitement,... (Source)

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When it was published in 1955, Lolita immediately became a cause célèbre because of the freedom and sophistication with which it handled the unusual erotic predilections of its protagonist. But Vladimir Nabokov's wise, ironic, elegant masterpiece owes its stature as one of the twentieth century's novels of record not to the controversy its material aroused but to its author's use of that material to tell a love story almost shocking in its beauty and tenderness.

Awe and exhilaration–along with heartbreak and mordant wit–abound in this account of the aging Humbert Humbert's...

Richard CohenIt’s more imbued with references to the sun and using the sun as symbol or metaphor – almost a kind of character in the novel – than any other work in literature. (Source)

Bryan CallenSo here are my three must read books. I've been reading a lot of great books like: Outsmart Your Instincts, The Culture Code, and Antonio Damasio’s The Strange Order, and sometimes when you read a lot of nonfiction it’s very enriching, sometimes you need a novel. I really believe you should take a minute and read something beautiful. Listen, listen to Lolita by Nabokov. But also listen to Blood... (Source)

Steven AmsterdamWhat’s spectacular for me is the triumph of the humour over his loathsomeness. (Source)

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