Here is a selection of the most entertaining of the dozens of books I read in researching the Belle Époque.

Edgar Degas ~ Portrait of Duranty

The Greater Journey: Americans In Paris, by David McCullough.  This is a fabulous book, though I read it when my book was essentially done, so it had little direct impact.  It weaves the adventures of Americans traveling to and living in Paris from the founding of the Republic to the beginning of the 20th century.  Most of these people are famous, or well-known in one way or another, though there is an assortment of more humble folk.  The majority are writers, artists, politicians, doctors, etc.  Their tales are joyful, sorrowful, inspiring.  I do have one complaint, which was the author’s biased handling of the Paris Commune, where he focused on one arch-villain of the sort that can be found in every regine, and ignored the people who were truly trying to make life better for the common Frenchman.  But the book is meticulously researched and informative as it is entertaining.



Beatrice, by Marie Spartali Stillman


Elegant Wits and Grand Horizontals, by Cornelia Otis Skinner.  An utter delight, witty, insightful sometimes painful.  One of the great challenges of Floats The Dark Shadow was to find new ways to describe the dramatic incident of the Charity Bazaar after reading her brilliant account.


Sisters of the Brush records the struggle for opportunity and recognition by the women artists of the period.  Although more of a textbook than some of the others included here, it gives new information and insight to those interested in these painters.

Young Girls Sketching by Pierrey Auguste Renoir










The Beast in the Boudoir: Petkeeping in Nineteenth Century Paris, by Kathleen Kete takes a look at the Belle Epoque from an unusual perspective.  Unfortunately, tales of Grand-mere and her poodle happen off stage in my novel.

Edwin Landseer's Trial By Jury


The Tallest Tower: Eiffel and the Belle Époque, by Joseph Harris is a fascinating account of Eiffel’s creative and innovative genius.  I was surprised that he’s not better known today for his achievements (other than the Tower), perhaps it’s because of his involvement, however reluctant, with the Panama canal scandal.

Luis Jiménez Aranda paints a Woman at the Exposition Universale, 1889







Pierre Auguste Renoir paints Monet Reading








The Daily Life of French Artists in the Nineteenth Century by Jacques Letheve gave a great deal of of interesting information on how artists lived and worked.




Explosive Acts: Toulouse-Lautrec, Oscar Wilde, Felix Fénéon and the Art and Anarchy of the Fin de Siècle – the title  says it all!

Felix Fénéon by Paul Signac


The Penguin Book of French Poetry 1820-1950 was a great resource.  Although the poems in Floats the Dark Shadow are original translations or public domain, this book introduced me to several poets of whom I knew little or nothing.


A Reading, by Thomas Wilmer Dewing


Can Can by Georges Seurat

Paris Montmartre: A Mecca of Modern Art 1860-1920, by Sylvie Buisson and Christian Parisot is one of many wonderful books on the dynamic creativity of Montmartre at the turn of the 20th Century.  I chose it because of its extravagant collection of color prints and old photographs.

Old postcard of the Heaven and Hell Cabarets











Antique Photograph looking up at Sacré Coeur


Musée Grévin poster by Jules Chéret

Spectacular Realities: Early Mass Culture in Fin de Siècle Paris by Vanessa Schwartz has a fascinating compilation of popular and often grisley amusements such as visits to the wax museum and the morgue, but did not include the grisley delights of Le Grand Guignol.

Poster by Adrien Barrère










The Paris Law Courts: Sketches of Men and Manners, by Gerald P. Moriarty was an invaluable find.  It’s a contemporary account of the judicial and polices systems, with many drawings of the people, the courts and the prisons.

Still life by Georges de la Tour

Eugenia Parry’s grisly but fascinating volume, Crime Album Stories: Paris 1886-1902, was recommended to me by Cara Black early in my journey and helped me to visualize much of Michel’s police work and the men with whom he worked.

Still life of skulls by Aelbert Jansz van der Schoor










Georges Batalille wrote The Trial of Gilles de Rais and Jean Benedetti The Real Bluebeard: The Life of Gilles de Rais both excellent resources on the horrific medieval serial killer who was later transformed into Bluebeard.

Gustav Dore's vision of Bluebeard

Finally, I recommend anyone interested in fin de siècle Paris read the works of J. K. Huysmans, especially the bitter, dark decadence of À Rebours and Là-Bas.

French paperback of Down There, or The Damned

Banner images are Van Gogh’s Still Life With Books And Rose, and Renoir’s Young Girl Reading.