We just celebrated Bastille Day, which has become the most popular English name for la Fête nationale or le 14 Juillet. It’s French’s National Day, similar to July 4 in America. The day celebrates the Storming of the Bastille during the early stages of the French Revolution. While trying to create a constitution that would be fair to the common people of France, the finance minister who was sympathetic to the cause, Jacques Necker, was dismissed by the king on July 11, 1789. His dismissal outraged the people of Paris, who saw the move as a sign that their concerns would be ignored and their representatives attacked. On July 14, they responded by storming the Bastille, a fortress in the city that was being used as a state prison, and raiding it for ammunition and gunpowder.
It was first celebrated just a year later, in 1790, because the day’s importance to the revolution as a whole was recognized. It was a day of peace and unity, including a mass celebrated by the bishop of the time, an oath to the constitution by King Louis XVI, and a four day festival full of feasting, drinking, fireworks, and running nude. However, the revolution didn’t continue to go smoothly after 1790, and grew far more violent in the following years.
90 years later, however, the day reemerged as a holiday. In 1879, the day was semi-officially celebrated, with a feast, a military review, and a reception to honor the French Republic. In 1880, the French Assembly and Senate voted to make July 14 the official national holiday and the celebrations truly began. Every year since 1880 has seen a military parade, which at first moved around Paris, but has happened on the Champs-Élysées since 1918 (with the exception of 1940-1944 when France was under German occupation), going from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde, where the president, the government, and foreign ambassadors wait. It’s broadcast across the country and some towns hold smaller military parades, but the one in Paris is the oldest and largest regular military parade in Europe. And the day is celebrated around the world by French ex-pats and foreign citizens who understand the significance of the day.
With that history lesson on our belt, and the fact that we’re still talking about France’s latest World Cup win, we thought it would be appropriate to add some French flair to our current #TBR pile. Check out these recs and read along!
The Distance from A to Z by Natalie Blitt
Rook by Sharon Cameron
Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
The Académie by Susanne Dunlap
The Pale Assassin by Patricia Elliott
Two Summers by Aimee Friedman
The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner
Pardon My French by Catherine Hapka
Romancing the Dark in the City of Light by Ann Jacobus
Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
The Bad Queen by Carolyn Meyer
The Beautiful and the Cursed by Page Morgan
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Die for Me by Amy Plum
Sovay by Celia Rees
The Darkest Hour by Caroline Tung Richmond
Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross
One Paris Summer by Denise Grover Swank
Faces of the Dead by Suzanne Weyn
Starry Nights by Daisy Whitney