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“Gigi” (thoughts)

July 15, 2008

The Novella Challenge“Gigi” by Collette was one of my choices for the novella challenge. I’ve been meaning to read Colette for years, and I’m glad to say that I’ll be reading more of her in the future (my copy also came with “The Cat,” and after that I want to read the Cherie series).

That being said, if you haven’t watched the musical movie version, wait until after you’ve read the book. Why? Because if you’re thoughtless, and watch it a week before picking up the novella, you’ll have the “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” song running on an endless loop inside your head while you’re trying to appreciate the way Colette creates an atmosphere. Also, Gigi in the book doesn’t look much like movie Gigi, and with only fifty-seven pages, it will take a while to mentally adjust.

Since it is so short, I don’t want to go too much into plot; for me, it was the setting that made the meat of the story. Turn-of-the-century Paris, and even though we don’t get to see the city much (the story’s set in two apartments), Colette created the perfect atmosphere. The ennui, the dissipation, the ageing old less than gracefully, all of this forms the backdrop for schoolgirl Gigi. Against it, she seems even brighter and more innocent, which is a wonderful contrast. My favourite character is Gigi’s great aunt Alicia: she was a high-class courtesan in the good old days, and she’s determined that Gigi will be the beneficiary of her experience in refinement. Watching the interaction between a restless young schoolgirl and a determined grand-dame was delicious. And then there’s the inherent irony between the manners the great aunt affects-all studious refinement-and the actual way she lived in life. It all just makes for a wonderful little piece!

isn't she just delicious?!

Here's Colette: isn't she just delicious?!

Here’s a taste of the relationship between Gigi and her aunt:

“Oh! Do you too, Aunt, really believe that they bring bad luck?”
“Why in the world not? You silly little creature,” Alicia went bubbling on, “you must pretend to believe in such things. Believe in opals, believe – let’s see, what can I suggest – in turquioses that die, in the evil eye…”
“But,” saud Gigi, haltingly, “those are…are superstitions!”
“Of course they are, child. They also go by the name of weaknesses. A pretty little collection of weaknesses are our indispensable stock-in-trade with the men.”
“Why, Aunt?”
The old lady closed the casket, and kept Gilberte kneeling before her.
“Because nine out of ten men are superstitious, nineteen out of twenty elieve in the evil eye, and ninety eight out of a hundred are afraid of spiders. They forgive us – oh! for many things, but not for the absence in us of their own feelings. What makes you sigh?”
“I shall never remember all that!”

I highly recommend this one as a great way to spend a couple hours. Just as long as you don’t have that song running through your head the whole time…

9 Comments leave one →
  1. trish permalink
    July 15, 2008 10:18 am

    Sounds like a great little book!

    And you had me giggling about why it’s a bad idea to watch the movie and then read the book. :D

  2. July 15, 2008 5:36 pm

    Collette is such a fascinating person. I just read the Cheri series a month or so ago (I did review it at my blog if you haven’t read it), and I definitely plan on reading more of her work.

  3. July 15, 2008 6:05 pm

    This is the second Colette post I’ve read this week. The universe speaks to me to pick up more Colette.

    I adore Colette.

  4. July 15, 2008 9:36 pm

    I’ve read one Colette novel…it was her first one post-Willy. Wow, great stuff. There’s also a biography of Colette I’ve been eyeing ever since.
    I agree…Colette looks scrumptious!

  5. July 17, 2008 7:21 pm

    Great recommendation and review, Eva! I’ve been looking for another novella.

  6. July 18, 2008 1:22 am

    Half my PhD was on Colette and despite that, she remains one of my favourite writers. Do read the Cheri novels, Eva, they are wonderful.

  7. July 21, 2008 11:31 am

    Trish, yeah: I really don’t like that song!

    Alisia, your review of the Cheri series is what made it sound so good. :D

    Dark Orpheus, so do I! Do you know of any good biographies?

    Bybee, which biography?

    Becca, I hope you enjoy this one!

    Litlove, now that’s the mark of a wonderful writer. :D

  8. lubylou12 permalink
    September 26, 2011 4:48 am

    Hi Eva,

    I’m a little late to comment on this post but I just read (and loved Gigi) then I discovered your review. Nice to see another Collete fan, I can’t wait to read more of her books.


  1. Gigi by Colette « The Sleepless Reader's Blog

Thank you for commenting! For a long while, my health precluded me replying to everyone. Yet I missed the conversation, so I'm now making an effort to reply again. It might take a few days though, and there will be times when I simply can't. Regardless, I always read and value what you say.

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