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A Breath of French Air
Page Count
Word Count
Michael Joseph
Woman's Own
Publication Year
Document Types
Comic Fiction
Larkin Family Novels
available as ebook

London: Michael Joseph, 1959; Original dust jacket by James Broom-Lynne.
Boston, Toronto: Little, Brown and Company (An Atlantic Monthly Press Book), 1959.
Serialized in Woman's Own (4 weekly parts, September 5-26, 1959).

The second of five Larkin family novels has the entire family of eleven travel to the north of France: much comparison is made to England, difficulties are experienced and resolved by the newly-weds Charlie and Mariette, Pop Larkin engages in a variety of dalliances, and the entire cast, including Angela Snow and her nun-like sister, convene on a splendid dinner in the conclusion. The character of hotel owner Madame Dupont returns in the fourth book, Oh! To Be In England (1963). The title is a play on the expression "a breath of fresh air."

The New York Times reviewer says "if I find this recital of inept gambolings and pseudo-lasciviousness deplorable, it is because I remember the time when 'Fair Stood the Wind for France,' when 'The Jacaranda Tree' perfumed the air, when the name of H.E. Bates stood for short stories of rural England that were alive with poignant truth. Please, Mr. Bates, please let it be fresh air next time." The Spectator calls it "the sort of professional job which one admires in spite of oneself." The Times Literary Supplement suggests that "Mr. Bates would relieve his old admirers if he adopted the policy of Mr. Graham Greene and called this 'an entertainment'; we are looking forward to the next 'novel.'"


  • New Statesman (August 29, 1959, p. 253, Richard Mayne, attached)
  • New York Times (October 18, 1959, p. BR50, Aileen Pippett, attached)
  • Spectator (August 21, 1959, p. 235, D.J. Enright, attached)
  • Times (August 20, 1959, p. 11, attached)
  • Times Literary Supplement (August 21, 1959, p. 481, Marigold Johnson, attached)
  • Punch (September 16, 1959, p. 182, attached)
  • Best Sellers (October 15, 1959, p. 238, George Perry, attached)
  • Sunday Times (August 16, 1959, p. 10, John Metcalf, attached)