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review 2016-04-16 11:00
The Secret Life of a Paris Concierge: The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
The Elegance of the Hedgehog - Muriel Barbery
L'élégance du hérisson - Muriel Barbery

This charming French novel first published in 2006 happens to be one of my favourites of all time. It's imbued with philosophy from beginning to end and everything revolves around the meaning of life from the point of view of a well-read French concierge who hides behind the façade of a typical speciman of her profession and a twelve-year-old bourgeois who feels disgusted by the empty life to which she seems doomed by birth. It's only thanks to the influence of a Japanese business man who moves into the house that the concierge gradually learns to live her true self and makes friends. A happy end announces itself page by page, but it isn't to be.


If you'd like to learn more about this novel, I invite you to read a long review here on my main book blog Edith's Miscellany.

Source: edith-lagraziana.blogspot.com
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review 2016-03-12 11:00
The Attraction of Nomad Life: Desert by J.-M. G. Le Clézio
Desert (Collection Folio, 1670) (French Edition) - Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio
Desert - J. M. G. Le Clezio

For Europeans the desert is an intriguing place – very much like the High Seas, the Polar Regions and Outer Space. The Nobel laureate in literature of 2008, Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, dedicated one of his novels to the magic of the desert.


The impressive scenes of Desert are Morocco or Western Sahara and Marseille, France, alternately in 1909/10 and in modern times. The two plot lines are interlaced and linked in various ways. One such connection is the desert itself and the deep love for it which share the Tuareg teenager Nour and the poor orphan girl Lalla Hawa although about sixty years separate their stories. Another common point is the Blue Man, a wonder-working man of the Tuareg people and maternal ancestor of Lalla Hawa.


The stories of Nour and Lalla breathe the spirit of the Desert. They move about in a world of beauty and frugality, of secret and magic, of life and death which J.-M. G. Le Clézio describes in countless poetic pictures. The protagonists are fully aware of their surroundings and see things that nobody else, above all no European, might notice or even appreciate.


For the full review please click here to go to my blog Edith’s Miscellany.

Source: edith-lagraziana.blogspot.com
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review 2016-02-06 11:00
A Ménage à Trois of a Different Kind: The Cat by Colette
La chatte - Colette
Gigi & The Cat - Colette

Certain book titles attract some people, while they chase away others – The Cat by Colette is such a one. It’s set in Paris in the 1930s and although a cat, more precisely a three-year-old Chartreux cat called Saha, plays a central role in it, the short classical novel couldn’t be less close to a fable or a fairy tale than it is.


The main protagonists of The Cat are Alain and Camille, a young couple about to get married. Alain is an introverted twenty-four-year-old bourgeois who loves his carefree life at his mother’s house, his habits and his cat Saha. Camille, on the other hand, is a bold and energetic young woman of nineteen who wants her husband to completely belong to her alone and to share her desires. Between them stands Saha, the purring link to Alain’s solitary past and the furry obstacle to the common future.


For the full review please click here to go directly to my post on Edith’s Miscellany.


Gigi & The Cat - Colette 

Source: edith-lagraziana.blogspot.com
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review 2014-02-16 09:25
Parisian Lives in the First Half of the 20th Century
Gigi et autres nouvelles - Colette

Gigi et autres nouvelles by Colette


Probably the novella Gigi dating from 1944 is the best-remembered work of the French writer Colette. Partly it may owe its worldwide fame to the musical film that was made of it in the late 1950s and that featured great stars like Leslie Caron in the title role, Louis Jourdan as Gaston and the unforgettable Maurice Chevalier as Gaston’s uncle Honoré Lachaille. Maurice Chevalier’s them song “Thank Heaven For Little Girls” seems to have become quite legendary at the time. However, the film retold the story of Gilberte “Gigi” Alvarez with some deviations from Colette’s novella, the most important of them being the character of Honoré Lachaille who doesn’t exist in the original prose text. Colette told the story of the adolescent Gilberte “Gigi” Alvarez in Belle-Époque Paris (around 1900) with her usual precision and in a beautiful language. It is understood very soon that the Alvarez women don’t marry, but make their livelihood as mistresses and courtesans. When Gigi turns sixteen, her family thinks that it’s time to introduce her into the wisdom and artifice of their trade. Distinguished aunt Alicia takes over the education of Gigi who is quick to learn… and in the end the little girl hooks Gaston, an old friend of the family whose feelings for her used to be those of a much older brother until then. But she refuses to be just his lover, however much Gaston would shower her with expensive presents. To her family’s dismay she wants more of life.


Since Gigi is a rather short novella or a long short story it is usually printed together with other stories. In English it is often combined with The Cat (»»» read my review on Edith’s Miscellany). The French edition that I read contained The Sick Child (L’enfant malade), the gripping story of a boy who caught polio and hovers between life and death, The Photographer's Wife (La dame du photographe) revolving around the wife of a photographer who is tired of her “rather small life” and makes a vain attempt to kill herself, and finally Flowers and Fruit (Flore et pomone), a sequel of memories and essayistic musings of the already elderly Colette connected to flowers and fruit as the title says and which was rather tough to read in the original version because of the many many accurate designations of flora, many of them unfamiliar to me even in German.


All four short stories of Gigi et autres nouvelles by Colette were interesting and gave me much pleasure. My verdict: recommended for reading!

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