Cross Channel by Julian Barnes
This is a collection of ten short stories with a linking theme: the British in France through several centuries. It opens with a group of mercenary soldiers engaged in a punitive expedition against a Protestant village in southern France in the late seventeenth century, and closes with a journey on the antiquated Eurostar express to Paris in the year 2015. In between the British appear in their various guises: as railway-builders in the 1840s, vineyard-owners at the turn of the century, artistic exiles in the 1920s. There is a story (based upon fact) about the departure of an English cricket team to play the Gentlemen of France in 1789; one about a literary conference in the Massif Central which may or may not have taken place; one about a Tour de France cyclist. The stories are designed to play off one another and work exploring the British fascination with France, our various and mixed reasons for being there, and our sometimes ambiguous reception.