A classic feminist translation from French that’s a “romantic” story told by a heartbroken performer named Renee, who must choose between freedom and...moreA classic feminist translation from French that’s a “romantic” story told by a heartbroken performer named Renee, who must choose between freedom and love during Victorian times.
About: Published in 1910 this is a short book that is supposedly a semi-autobiography from the interesting bohemian author – Colette. The story is told in first person by Renee Nere, the main character who has divorced her wealthy, philandering, artist husband after eight years of emotional torture. Damaged, much wiser, yet lonely, she has managed to support herself as a dancer and actor in Paris. Although not considered an acceptable profession for her social standing, it never-the-less gives Renee a sense of independence which is hard earned during a time when a woman’s independence was not common and, indeed, shunned.
When a wealthy gentleman falls in love with Renee and promises her the moon, and the dancer attempts to decide between marriage and independence - that is when the reader gets a glimpse into why this book is considered a feminist classic.
Thoughts: I truly enjoyed this book in audio, with its UK-English accented reader and its esoteric French phrase usage. (I speak 4 words of French and received horrible grades for it in high school, so did not understand most of it). Yet the English part of the book is descriptive and pleasant, if slightly long winded at times. At one point Renee travels the French countryside, and the letters Renee writes her would be lover are sweet indeed.
When doing research about the author, I found Colette to be an intriguing subject. Living a life that was not standard, she broke many social rules including affairs with a tabooed family member and women. Although this book does not have LGBT elements, it’s still feminist in nature and is not your happily-ever-after romance. But I think that is where its value lies, in a “realistic” example of a woman who goes against the social norms of the times and lives her life to the fullest.
I give this wonderful short novel (especially in its audio version) a 4-star rating and recommend it highly for those interested in anything French, Victorian classics, and feminist fiction.(less)
A dryly humorous and intellectual literary story about the fickleness of human love and all its entangleme...moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
A dryly humorous and intellectual literary story about the fickleness of human love and all its entanglements.
About: Set in contemporary France we have Anna, who is a doctor, and Louise, an attorney. Anna's therapist falls for Louise, and Anna falls for a writer. Both women are beautiful, intelligent, Jewish and of very comfortable means. They also look so similar that they could be the same person or sisters. As these two women with loving families and husbands find romantic entanglement with different men (not their husbands), we see the complexity of their feelings, the inevitable consequences of their choices, and some of the inner workings of their lives – complex and mundane.
Creating a story which is – “enough about love”.
Thoughts: I enjoyed this literary novel partly because it’s not your ordinary romance and because it was perfect to read around Valentine’s day. As is often the case in real life romance all the character’s lives are intertwined, overlapped and connected. Labeling each chapter with the character’s names, Le Tellier tells us about their daily lives as they connect throughout the story.
The author also offers the reader elements with heart wrenching depth such as a glimpse inside the Jewish psyche – one an incredible metaphorical link, inside a legal speech given by Louise about the holocaust; another gives a view inside the daily workings of a woman’s mind. Le Tellier’s attention to details is intriguing - for example he lists the clothing purchases of one of the main character’s - where he cleverly juxtaposes the heavy (as in the holocaust speech) and the light (represented by the gorgeous descriptions of each item such as lingerie and shoes).
It is a quirky novel which is often the case with translations - which is why I adore them. I was challenged and did not understand every little element; I was shocked, amazed and laughed. I give this realistic novel 3 stars. I would recommend it to readers who enjoy translations, like an intellectual read, are intrigued by the French, or are looking for a large step away from fluffy romance.(less)