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Bitter Almonds

3.02 of 5 stars 3.02  ·  rating details  ·  101 ratings  ·  29 reviews
Edith can hardly believe it when she learns that Fadila, her sixty-year-old housemaid, is completely illiterate. How can a person living in Paris in the third millennium possibly survive without knowing how to read or write? How does she catch a bus, or pay a bill, or withdraw money from the bank? Why it's unacceptable! She thus decides to become Fadila’s French teacher. B ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published April 2nd 2013 by Europa Editions (first published January 1st 2011)
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I feel some nostalgia for Laurence Cosse after enjoying the lovely ''A Novel Bookstore', a few years ago. 'Bitter Almonds', however, was not more of the same. Cosse's latest work is the story of two women, Edith and Fadila, the former serving as a teacher/friend to the sixty-year-old unschooled latter, attempting to teach her to read and write. And so the novel goes, page after page of Edith grasping to find a way to make the written word available to Fadila. Despite the lack of plot and charact ...more
A Novel Bookstore is one hell of a good, though flawed, novel. At a reader’s first glance, this book would seem to be more in the tradition of the earlier book.

It isn’t.

Bitter Almonds covers a different aspect of reading, the knowledge of reading, the ability to make sense of vague shapes and get meaning.

This means that the book is a somewhat technical descriptive story. The paragraphs about drawing an “o” make the reader want to smack someone.

This isn’t to say that the book isn’t worth rea
Very quiet, yet oddly gripping story. On the surface, it's about a woman teaching an illiterate older woman to read and write. But it's about much more than that -- friendship, family, and the immigrant experience. Like many French stories I've seen/read (not that I'm a connoisseur), the ending was "different" from what we've come to expect from American fiction. That isn't "bad," -- in fact, upon reflection, the ending seems inevitable. The way it was presented was just a jab to the heart. I al ...more
Puntavo questo libro da un bel po', da almeno un anno direi, e le recensioni che avevo letto non erano molto incoraggianti, ma visto che al Salone del libro lo regalavano con l'acquisto di altri due libri l'ho preso volentieri.
Ecco, forse c'era un motivo se le recensioni non erano positive. La quarta di copertina parla di "due amiche", ma qui di amicizia non c'è nemmeno l'ombra. C'è un po' di compassione, da parte della francese Edith per la marocchina Fadila a cui tenta di insegnare a leggere e
An interesting look at adult literacy told through the lens of culture, language, age barriers as a thoughtfully and gracefully crafted novel. As far as French Literature goes, very accessible in terms of writing style and length. French Novels tend to be ultra-highbrow, and incredibly cerebral, and never brief. This one I would definitely recommend to friends.
Susan Zinner
'Liked this more than "A Novel Bookstore" by the same author, but this was such a sad, sad story about an older woman who never learned to read and how her Paris employer gallantly takes on the challenge. 'Don't want to give away too much but this is one of those tasks that typically doesn't end well b/c adult non-readers face such a challenge at this age. The ending was so sad; makes you grateful you learned to read as a child. The author really captures Paris well, as well as the lives of the ...more
Ashley Farley
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Vivek Tejuja
It is so important to be educated. Is it not? So much so that we – the ones who are educated almost take it for granted. A privilege of sorts. We can never imagine not being literate. To us, that is the core of everything, which as I said often gets overlooked for whatever reason. I tried teaching someone once a long time ago, taught him to read a little and to me that remains closest to my heart. It was not much but it mattered and reading “Bitter Almonds” by Laurence Cossé brought back all tho ...more
Paulita Kincer
I read Bitter Almonds by Laurence Cossé a French author. The novel is set in Paris. The main character, Edith, is a middle class French mother. She agrees to hire the building supervisor's mother to do her ironing three hours each week. The woman in her 60s, Fadila, is from Morocco. From the beginning, Edith is annoyed with Fadila because she doesn't keep regular hours. Soon, Edith learns that Fadila never learned to read or write, either in Arabic or French.
"Before long, she is bringing letters
Edith, an upper-middle class French novelist, undertakes teaching Fadila, a Moroccan-born woman in her 60's who does her family's ironing, how to read. It's significantly more difficult than she'd anticipated--perhaps altogether impossible--but the two of them persevere, in fits and starts, over the course of several years.

In the process, Edith becomes increasingly aware of Fadila's life, her family relationships, her struggles to maintain her dignity, her sometimes brutal past experiences. Que
Lorri Steinbacher
I wasn't sure how I felt about this book. The literacy learning that was integral to the plot feltm overdone and repetitive. Of course, part of that may have been a narrative device, giving the reader the same feeling of frustration that Edith felt in trying to help Fadila learn, but still I skimmed it. You did't get much sense of Edith as a character, but Fadila was well-fleshed out and I liked her. ENding felt flat.
A quiet book where you don't think much is happening, but it is--so much beneath the surface. Carefully crafted, it reveals the life of one elderly Moroccan immigrant, Fadila, and the woman, almost totally her opposite, who endeavors to teach Fadila to read and write. Fadila comes to work for Edith a couple of days a week, and Edith who works at home as a translator, soon realizes that Fadila can neither read nor write. And so begins an effort to open up the doors of literacy to Fadila. Edith so ...more
A story I couldn't completely get excited about, as I got bored with the insular, spiral style of storytelling. The plot centered on repeated attempts to reach out to teach someone with a western idea of education and share what literacy can mean within a culture that is foreign. It was meaningful subject and the social cultural awkwardness real. I will try this again when I am in a quieter reading mood.
Elizabeth La Lettrice
I couldn't have been less interested to finish this story but it was so short (still took me a week to get through) that I felt I had to. This is the story between Edith and Fadila, employer/employee, teacher/student, friends. The novel is mostly a recounting of Edith's efforts to teach Fadila how to read and write with the occasional interjection of familial anecdotes. It, like teaching, is A LOT of repetition of the same scenarios. And then ACTION(!), and scene ends. Irritating.

*Because I don'
Ugh, not even close to as good as The Elegance of the Hedgehog. The story beguiled me and teased me onward and then never gave me an answer! It ended abruptly and unkindly! Cruel!
I thought I had read good things about this book, but now I’m not sure I could have, so maybe I just put it on my French shopping list because of Au Bon Roman (A Novel Bookstore). The subject, a French woman who decides to teach a Moroccan woman how to read, was certainly interesting, but it was incredibly repetitive and I just kept waiting for something to happen. I guess it does in the end, but the resolution was rather abrupt and particularly disappointing—a bit of a cop-out, like Cossé didn’ ...more
Edith is a middle class book translator in Paris. Fadila is a Moroccan immigrant who irons Edith's clothes and the clothes of other Parisians to pay the rent on her tiny room. The story begins when Edith tries to teach Fadila how to read and write hoping it will improve Fadila's life and circumstances. Edith gives it her best shot but Fadila can't hang onto the written word. A thought-provoking tale about class and the importance of literacy.
I loved Cosse's A Novel Bookstore, but I couldn't really get excited about this one - a book about a woman and her employee and the cultural differences between them. I don't know, it just frustrated me. I don't know if it felt incomplete (although it certainly was a story) or I didn't feel the characters were developed enough, but it wasn't my favorite.
I enjoyed two of Cosse's other books but this one just fell flat. I like stories about immigrants, books set in Paris and I think literacy is crucial. Unfortunately, Cosse never succeeded in making either the teacher or the student come alive here. Disappointing.
I love how realistic this book was. Accurately depicts that when you branch out and invest in something hard, outside your comfort zone, there isn't always a happy ending. But that isn't the part that makes us grow anyway. Very quick and pleasurable read.
I loved the combination of humor and humanity in this beautiful book. I also think many people can relate it even if they're not from the same nationalities as the characters described here.
Bitter Almonds was bitter period. This is a book I should have really liked because I'm a huge advocate of adult literacy programs. I am simply not a huge advocate of this book. Bitter - yuck.
This book has in its favour that it is short. And even then, it still took me a week or more to finish. Interesting premise, but not one I would insist others read.
A sobering look at how challenging it is to learn--or try to teach someone--to read late in life. The situation is complicated further when the learner is an immigrant.
really?!? The ending was annoyingly abrupt sigh. I love her writing but this story was disappointing (2.5/3)
Repetitious. Kept waiting for something, anything. And then it ends.
Just can't get into it. Some books are not for me.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mihaela marked it as to-read
Feb 19, 2015
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She was first a journalist in the French newspaper Le Quotidien de Paris and then at the French public radio France Culture. Most of her novels have been published by the French publishing house Gallimard.
More about Laurence Cossé...
A Novel Bookstore A Corner of the Veil: A Novel An Accident in August Le Mobilier National Vous n'écrivez plus?

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