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A Life of Her Own: A Countrywoman in Twentieth-Century France

3.85  ·  Rating Details ·  330 Ratings  ·  46 Reviews
Published in France in 1977 as Une Soupe aux Herbes Sauvages, this autobiography of a peasant woman reared in the stony insularity of a tiny Alpine village reveals the unfolding of a formidable person. Carles, born in 1900, writes of her life in the mountains coountry of southern France as comprising "so many different things, funny or tragic, picturesque or cruel." She ta ...more
Hardcover, 296 pages
Published March 1st 1991 by Rutgers University Press (first published January 1st 1977)
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Linda
Aug 10, 2010 Linda rated it it was amazing
I came upon this title from a reference in the book SYLVIA'S FARM. Am I ever glad I followed up. This is the story of a French peasant woman, born in 1900, who became a teacher. She wrested her education from nuns and in the direst of living circumstances, always going back to her father's farm to work on weekends. She bicycled to her father's farm and worked like the devil, or at least, a peasant. Sycthing wheat, working with dray horses, drawing water, chopping wood. Her living conditions, whi ...more
Sally
May 04, 2012 Sally rated it really liked it
The simply written autobiography of a courageous woman who grew up in a poor and conservative peasant family in the Hautes Alpes of France in the early twentieth century. Given the unusual gift of higher education, she rebelled against the narrow conventions within which she had been raised, speaking out against patriarchy, chauvinism, nationalism, militarism—even the Catholic Church and its God. She saw it as her role as a longtime schoolteacher in her native valley to shape and broaden the per ...more
Laura moffitt
I loved this book. Emilie shows us what it is to have inner strength and vision. An inspiration for women everywhere written in her unique voice. It reminds me of memoirs my own mother would write capturing country life.
Charles
Sep 04, 2013 Charles rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Une Soupe aux herbes sauvages immediately became a best-seller in France, according to the Introduction to this edition, and in the original French and translations into Italian and German in much of the rest of Europe. It was repubished in a "definitive edition" in Paris in 1988 (Éditions Robert Laffont). Yet this English translation didn't appear until 1991, and then in a university press listing, not under a commercial imprint.

Not hard to guess why. The author's tone careens from the colloqu
...more
Stéphane Vande ginste
We waren op vakantie in de Franse Alpen in Le Rosier bij Val-des-Prés: een prachtig dorpje in een wondermooie vallei ("Vallée de la Clarée") vlakbij Briançon. Naast de verplichte toeristische folders, in ons vakantiehuisje, lag een boekje, "livre de poche", met op de voorflap een ouwe dame en met de titel hierboven. Ik bladerde er eerst wat in, in de mening dat dit een banaal stationromannetje was en legde het terug om er niet meer naar te kijken.
Tot ik ergens iets over die Madame Carles las.. z
...more
Alex
Feb 07, 2014 Alex rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"You pass sentence onto yourself. I say you have the right to a life of your own," the author's husband says to her.

The book is interesting. I read it for a history class: European Social History in the 1900s. Carles offers a cool perspective, as she lived in the same small valley just about her whole life, riding the waves of WWI, WWII, and too many personal destinations to count. Her life begins harshly. The most telling story is where she fell from the 2nd story balcony at age 7, almost died,
...more
Jacqui
Feb 05, 2014 Jacqui rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed the tale of Emilie Carles' life as it opened my eyes to the struggle that people went through during the early years of the 20th Century. Within history courses throughout school we are taught events and cause/effects largely based around America, so hearing in detail the life of a women growing up in France during the beginning of the century and onward was extremely riveting. I would have given it higher marks, but seeing as it was a booked assigned to me to read, I wasn't abl ...more
Sierra
Jan 04, 2012 Sierra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting. This book provides an excellent look at the impact of WWI and WWII on common people. The book is set in rural France and shows the devastation of war. However, it also shows the strength simple people can have when united. Other themes touched on include: the role of a teacher, pacifism, politics, gender roles, and more. Sometimes the book may seem biased. Just keep in mind that it is one woman's life and outlook. This is a chance to look at an eventful slice of history through ...more
Elisse
Mar 29, 2009 Elisse rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
surprisingly good for a book I had to read for class. Carles is an interesting woman with very intense memories and ideals. One can tell from reading it that she was very strongly influenced by her pacifist and much older husband (but who isn't influenced by their spouse) and that tends to make me wonder what her views on life were without his mixed in. It is a wonderful portrayal of rural life in France during the two World Wars. I was interested to learn the impact of these huge world events o ...more
Josie
Oct 02, 2013 Josie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Emilie writes a charming, passionate account of her life that's hard not to love. Her language is colorful, playful, and insightful. It's an easy read, though she gets on rants at times and is steadfast in her views. That said, it's hard not to imagine she sugarcoats certain situations in her favor. It's easy to agree with her when you're with her in the high mountains of Southeastern France, but in stepping back into reality, I could imagine some people not siding with her. Overall I say it's a ...more
Robbin
Oct 13, 2007 Robbin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
This is book is a moving story of a French woman struggling to survive against the odds in World War I France. Against the backdrop of povery, war, loss and hardship that many of us will never know, this woman came through with tremendous spirit and determination. Her story inspired me tremendously and I feel enriched just having read it.
I bought a copy at a dollar store on a whim, but it is now one of my treasured "keepers".
A.L. Sowards
I enjoyed the first part of this book, the story of a French peasant girl's life. It is full of the type of stories that stick with you. The author has a good voice—I could almost imagine her sitting there telling me about her life. Towards the end it was less interesting. The last chapter seemed like a communist rant. Even though I didn't always agree with her, I did admire her. She was a hard-working woman, willing to sacrifice for others.
Joan
Mar 05, 2008 Joan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This autobiography is about a 20th century French woman who was raised as a peasant, the only one of her family to be educated and become a teacher. It gives amazing insight into the lives, thoughts and passions of peasant life. A first-hand account of what the world of the uneducated is, how working for money and food is the focus, and how much power authority has over these hard lives. Even more amazing is how she met her husband and what an unusual man he turned out to be.
Caryn Sobel
Jan 10, 2009 Caryn Sobel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't agree with Emilie Carles politically, but was so happy to find a bio of a woman from a peasant background who used her intellect and moved in the world of ideas, and still got her hands dirty. I am always interested in how people blend--or patch--these sometimes incompatible approaches to life together. Her account of her relationship with her husband was especially good--frank and open, and just suffused with appreciation for the person he was.
Joyce
Jun 29, 2010 Joyce rated it really liked it
Fighting ignorance and intolerance her whole life, Carle shares the local gossip, her choices and world issues that impacted the transition from living as a very conservative peasant to left wing pacifist. I continue to read a few pages, here and there. This book will be useful if this world goes to isolation and we need to fend for ourselves as Carle did in her earlier life.
Galicius
Nov 28, 2010 Galicius rated it really liked it
Shelves: french
Remarkable autobiography of an amazing woman Emilie Allais Carles (1900-1977)

"...a man must defend himself against exploitation and the stultifying effect of work...The most important thing for a young person is to choose a trade he likes and enjoys, otherwise he will be a slave, unhappy and consumed with rage." (p. 226)
Rachel Hatch
May 27, 2013 Rachel Hatch rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Super interesting look at the life of paysans in the French Alps in the early twentieth-century. Although often sad, the stories of her life are fascinating. It would be interesting to read this in its original form. I found myself translating back into French some of the expressions and found that I understood better what she was saying when I did that. Very interesting and very good.
Brittney
I had trouble getting through the book because it is so long. However, I kept reading because I loved learning about Emilie Carles. She did a lot in life. I was always surprised by her next adventure and had to keep reminding myself it was all real. I also enjoyed learning more about her culture and what is was like growing up in a place so far removed from a fast paced society.
Alison Smith
Jul 07, 2012 Alison Smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating book. True story of a poor peasant woman born in the high Alps of south-eastern France. Two world wars, one husband, six children, three wards, and a life of hardship in 5terms of rural living with no mod cons. A window into another world and another century. Highly recommend.
Diedra
Oct 17, 2015 Diedra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult
A simple autobiography of a French country woman who lived during the last century. Her strength lies in writing about her childhood. The later years read like a political manifesto. I think that time a perspective makes Emilie Carles a better writer.
Gail Hoskins
Memoir of Emilie Carles, a woman from the French Alps who lived roughly from 1900through the 1970's. She docuents the changes in her rural society in the twentieth century. It wasn't a great work of literature but was an interesting study of the changes taking place in France at that time.
Juli
Feb 09, 2011 Juli rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a woman! !Ah, caramba! It's no literary masterpiece but the writing is in keeping with the author's personality - direct and unfettered, and you really get a clear sense of provincial 20th century France. Makes my life look like a cake walk; Emilie Carles - plucky and inspiring!
Ann
Mar 20, 2016 Ann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this long ago, but it still sticks with me. I'm always impressed with people of very modest beginnings who can write so frankly about their life adventures. The stunning toll of war is always so heartbreaking, but this woman rose above so many tragedies.
David
Jun 23, 2008 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
True story of one of the first women to achieve higher education in France during the twentieth century. She came from very humble beginnings and narrates her story from the first person perspective.
Jennifer
Dec 29, 2007 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this for a class in college (one I ended up failing but enjoyed nonetheless) and I think it is the only one of such books I kept. This woman was amazing.
Alison
May 12, 2015 Alison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
fascinating autobiography of an amazing woman born at the turn of the century in the south of France. She overcame many obstacles and became a teacher.
Sarah
Feb 24, 2012 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
Not necessarily in agreement with Mme. Carles' politics, but loved the story, told in the first person, of growing up as a peasant in the French Alps.
Elise
Jan 28, 2008 Elise rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: women, history
Methinks my life is not so hard as I sometimes like to believe...this book was well-written and inspirational in a completely non-sappy way.
Johanne
Feb 01, 2013 Johanne rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Somehow this just did not seem as good a memoir as I'd hoped for - could have used an editor, I think. Parts were interesting, but it was more remarks than memoir.
Holly
Sep 04, 2010 Holly rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I discovered an old book review I'd written in college about this book. I claimed to have loved it, but I can't remember much about it now. I'll have to rediscover the story sometime.
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