17th Century: Moliere(1622- 1673)-  Mme de Lafayette (1634-1693)

18th Century: Voltaire(1694-1778)-

19th Century: Balzac(1799-1850)

20th Century: Anatole France(1844-1924)- Georges Duhamel(1884-1966) - Marcel Pagnol(1895-1974)- Albert Camus(1913-1960)- Hervé Bazin(1911-1996)

Please click on the names of authors above to access the Index Pages of my Study Notes on each author.


Below are the same authors listed in the order in which I posted them to my website. They appear in this order in the notes printed below, which are intended to give a brief introduction of each writer and the books to be studied

1) Mme de Lafayette  - 2) Albert Camus - 3) Anatole France - 4)   Marcel Pagnol - 5) Hervé Bazin - 6) Balzac - 7) Voltaire - 8) Georges Duhamel

9) Moliere



1) Mme de Lafayette: -

La Princesse de Clèves (1678)- This great Classic love story is set in 16th Century France.

On my website you will find:

A detailed Summary of the book with commentary -

Brief biography of Mme de Lafayette - Historical Background of “La Princesse de Clèves”  - Studies of the 3 main characters - The progression of the passion of La Princesse de Clèves” -  

Mme de Lafayette’s Literary Style - Other critics’ views  of “La Princesse de Clèves” 


 2) Albert Camus : - L'Etranger (1941), La Chute (1956) -

Two famous philosophical novels give the reader a lot ot think about.

L’étranger -

On my website you will find:

Summary & Commentary - Other critics’ views of L’étranger -

The character of Meursault - Why is Meursault condemned? -

The depiction of of the processes of law - Essay on Salamano - The depiction of love in L’étranger.

La Chute-

On my website you will find:

A brief explanation of the book – Detailed summary of La Chute
- Jean-Baptiste’s life and character before "the fall” - The stages of the fall of Jean-Baptiste - Why did Jean-Baptiste become a juge-pénitent? -
Morality of the modern world.


3) Anatole France -

Les Dieux ont Soif (1912) - A vivid story of the French Revolution, years 1793- 1794, at the height of The Terror.

On my website you will find:

Historical background to the novel “Les Dieux ont Soif” -  

Detailed summary of “Les Dieux ont Soif” with commentary.


4) Marcel Pagnol -

Le Château de ma Mère (1957)- An auto-biographical story of childhood holidays in the hills of Provence, in the first decade of the 20th century.

On my website you will find:

Detailed summary of « Le Château de ma mère » in English. -

Notes to explain historical and social background -

Biography of Marcel Pagnol


5) Herve Bazin -

Vipère au poing (1948)- Autobiographical account of the crippling effect of an extremist religious education in the 1930s.

On my website you will find:

Detailed summary of Vipère au Poing -

Autobiographical elements in “Vipère au Poing” - Biographical notes on Hervé Bazin. - The historical, social and religious issues in “Vipère au Poing”.


6) Balzac -

Le Père Goriot (1834) - This masterpiece of world literature tells of the dangerous temptations of High Society for a young man who had come to Paris to study.

On my website you will find:

Le Père Goriot- detailed summary & commentary -

Biography of Balzac

Character studies of Eugène de Rastignac - Le Père Goriot – Vautrin - the two daughters of Goriot – Mme. de Beauséant – Mme. Vauquer - Victorine Taillefer - Mlle. Michonneau –
Balzac's great literary project: “La Comédie Humaine” – Balzac’s theories studied –

The importance of the descriptions in Balzac’s books.


7) Voltaire -

Candide (1759)- One of the giants of world literature, takes us on a journey to show us that the 18th Century World was not the best of all possible worlds in spite of what contemporary philosophers claimed.

On my website you will find:

Detailed summary of “Candide” with commentary -

Biography of Voltaire - The literary genre to which “Candide” belongs.
Explaining the Optimistic philosophy of the 18th century – Showing direct references to Philosophical Optimism in “Candide” – Explaining Voltaire's hostility to Philosophical Optimism.  - Voltaire's evidence against philosophical Optimism. – Asking if  "Candide" is a totally pessimistic book -

What is Candide's own, philosophy of life, at the end? –

Discussing Voltaire's literary style
The characters  - Are the characters merely puppets? - Character Studies -  Candide – Pangloss -  Cunégonde - The Jesuit baron - The Old Woman. – Cacambo - Martin.


8) Georges Duhamel -

Le Notaire du Havre (1933) This touching, autobiographical novel tells of the trials and privations of a young family, in Paris at the end of the 19th century, struggling to survive on insufficient means, with a problematic father at their head.

On my website you will find:

A detailed summary of "Le Notaire du Havre" with commentary. -

Short synopsis of the book, formed by Duhamel's chapter headings. -  

Summary of the ”Preface to Le Notaire du Havre" , written by Duhamel
Studies of the background to this novel: - the link with Georges Duhamel’s childhood - historical events and social problems reflected. –

Character studies: M. Pasquier - Similarities in facets of character of M. Pasquier and M. Wasselin.

(9) Moliere - This site is still in progress

Moliere Tartuffe Detailed Summary and commentary





For my personal enjoyment, I have also created my websites for two favourite French singers. Each song posted has (i) A You Tube video - (ii) The text in French with my English translation - (III) My commentary on how I read the song.

The songs can be accessed on my blogsite at

1) For Georges Brassens on my blogsite at "Alphabetical List of my Brassens Songs" – URL:

2) For the songs of Carla Bruni on my blogsite at "Carla Bruni’s songs with English translation and vice versa" - URL:










First book posted

Mme de Lafayette
La Princesse de Clèves  









Second and third books


Albert Camus 


La Chute





Fourth Book posted

Anatole France  
Les Dieux ont Soif












Fifth book posted

Marcel Pagnol
Le Château de ma Mère










Sixth book posted

Hervé Bazin  

Vipère au poing










Seventh book posted

Le Père Goriot













Eighth Book Posted:












Ninth Book Posted:


Georges Duhamel
Le Notaire du Havre



La Princesse de Cleves with Nemours for whom she was consumed by an illicit love


Meusault finds himself accused of the capital crime of murder, whose commital he finds hard to explain to himself. The operation of the machinery of justice only complicates understanding even further. Written at the time when the philosophy of Existentialism was the vogue, “L'Etranger" depicts the moment in a person's life when the routines of every­day life collapse around one’s ears and you suddenly come face to face with the absurd.



The French Queen, Marie Antoinette, faces the gullotine.

Anatole France's masterpiece allows us to re-live the experience of a sample of French people during The Terror created by revolutionary idealists




The totally happy Summer holidays spent as a family in the hills of Provence were a very fragile idyll.



A little boy in his tree retreat, plots revenge -not excluding murder - on a mother who has used powerful religion to subject the lives of her children to total misery.




Rastignac, the hero of this novel, who came to Paris as a student, is quickly distracted by the glamour of its high society. He meets the young ladies pictured above - the voluptuous Anastasie and her charming younger sister, Delphine. They are daughters of M. Goriot, who gives the title to the book. He has been retired for a number of years after a very successful business career. Incredibly he lives in the same grim, impoverished boarding house as Rastignac. This contradiction is part of the dark side of this glittering city, which Balzac delights in exposing.



Voltaire the great man, famous in his own lifetime throughout Europe, but who feared for his liberty and even for his life if he stayed in his homeland of France for too long. His anti-establishment ideas, were part of the flame that was soon to set his country alight


This is the edition that I used with my classes. in the portraits, we see the author's very dearly loved mother, with his handsome, eccentric father. The third picture is of his younger sister.

The main item on the picture is the envelope on the table. In the book the family is waiting, in suspense, for the announcement that they will soon be receiving their share of the wealth, bequeathed by a maternal aunt, who has just died. This will lift them out of their present poverty and give them a comfortable lifestyle. However, there are problems!

The letter will come from the family solicitor, whose office is in Le Havre - hence the title of the book.



These are the notes that I put together during twenty-five years of teaching French "A" level. The collection represents many hundreds of hours' work. I am putting them on the Internet in the hope that they will help readers to enjoy these great books of French literature. I am continuing to add extra authors and notes.

My technique was to write a full summary of each book, to provide a central reference for the studies that followed.

The summaries and the essays give page references. Unfortunately, the texts that I used are probably now out of print. I hope that readers will find methods to calculate changed page numbers.

The author of this website is David Yendley, before retirement, Head of Modern Languages at Wigan and Leigh College in the United Kingdom. Originally, I used the maternal family name as an Internet alias and so the name of David Barfield may sometimes appear.