Chrissie's Reviews > The Vagabond

The Vagabond by Colette
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really liked it
bookshelves: audible, bio, france, hf, feminism, 2015-read

Why in the world did I like this so much?

Is it the plot? It is about a music-hall dancer, Rénée Néré. She is thirty-three, a Parisian of Montmartre, a recent divorcée. She is burnt by marriage. She is determined and hardened, but honestly she is really just hurt. Hard on the surface and determined to survive. Will she choose to manage on her own or will she marry into an easy life of comfort and wealth…but what must she sacrifice then? What does she really want? We watch her path toward self-discovery.

The book is partially autobiographical, but it was first published in 1910, while the author, Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, died much later in 1954, so it can only be about her younger years. She was born 1873. Any peek at Wiki will tell you that the author married three times and had both scandalous lesbian and heterosexual relationships. When you read the book you don't know how she will choose. You watch, and I found it totally convincing. I think this is what I found so wonderful with the book.

What was life like at the turn of the 20th Century for the music-hall dancers of Paris? This is why I chose the book, but it turned out to be much more of a look at one woman’s choices. I am convinced she made the right choice for her, and that means I got to know who she was, not just any music-hall dancer.

Then there is the writing. First I found the writing florid, filled with words and phrases such as "whence" and "thou" and "his prompt docility" or "in a moment of exquisite bliss". Antiquated? Dated? I started with dislike but grew to marvel at how expertly the author depicted situations and places and emotions. By the end I thought it read as poetry. Does this also reflect the author’s passage toward becoming a writer? I usually like simple writing, and that is not what is delivered, but I certainly liked this. Another surprise.

The narration of the audiobbok by Johanna Ward was f-a-n-t-a-s-t-i-c!!!! It could not have been better. Perfect French and the tone perfectly matched Rénée/Colette. The story is told in the first person narrative so we are listening to Rénée words and thoughts. She must have sounded exactly so! Maybe the audio version further enhances the believability of the story told.

I don’t like short novels, but I really liked this! Both its exquisite writing and how it was so thoroughly convincing! You must know that Colette also wrote Gigi which became both a film and a stage production.
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Reading Progress

January 27, 2015 – Shelved
January 27, 2015 – Shelved as: to-read
January 27, 2015 – Shelved as: wishlist-b
January 27, 2015 – Shelved as: audible
January 27, 2015 – Shelved as: bio
January 27, 2015 – Shelved as: france
January 27, 2015 – Shelved as: hf
January 27, 2015 – Shelved as: feminism
February 16, 2015 – Shelved as: own-unlistened
February 16, 2015 – Shelved as: 2015-read
February 24, 2015 – Started Reading
February 25, 2015 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-10 of 10 (10 new)

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message 1: by Angela M (new)

Angela M Enjoyed your review , Chrissie . Adding it .


Chrissie All I know is that what started with dislike ended with great pleasure. I am not suite sure what made me like it so much but I think I pinpointed what happened to me.

Thanks, Angela.


message 3: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan Even though I don't have this shelved here, I own an old copy and think I read it when I was about 13. It had been my mother's copy. I don't think I "got it" at all at the time. Another one read too young. I probably won't pick it up again, though your review is tempting me a bit, Chrissie.


Chrissie Colette was the "thing" to read in our parents' era so I am not surprised you Mom had it., Lisa. You probably saw Gigi, right? This is very different from that.


message 5: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan Chrissie wrote: "Colette was the "thing" to read in our parents' era so I am not surprised you Mom had it., Lisa. You probably saw Gigi, right? This is very different from that."

I lost so many of the books (a few different ways between 12-15 years old) so I don't know. I have another Colette book of her's but not Gigi, but it might have been one of the ones lost. It's kind of cool our parents read certain books, many of which are still worth reading.


Chrissie Yes, but when my Mom died I simply could not take all of her books too. It became very clear to me that books are personal. My kids may not at all want my books either. I didn't understand this when I was younger.


message 7: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan Well I was young. I did want them but lost many. I assume if I'd gotten to keep them all at some point I'd have wanted to relinquish many of them.


Chrissie This all came as a surprise to me but it is also realated to my using audiobooks now.


message 9: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan Chrissie wrote: "This all came as a surprise to me but it is also realated to my using audiobooks now."

That makes sense. Thank goodness a lot of books do have audio format available.


Chrissie Yes, more and more.


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