Friday, July 30, 2010

Cheri and The Last of Cheri

Oh, Colette...
Your books Cheri and The Last of Cheri have put me through the emotional wringer! But I mean that in a good way. It feels as if I have walked alongside your characters as they strolled through those lovely Parisian gardens.
"Between the curving garden path a stream of red salvia wound between banks of grey-mauve Michaelmas daisies. Golden butterflies flitted as if it were summer and the scent of chrysanthemums, strengthened by the hot sun, was wafted into the garden-room. A yellowing birch tree trembled in the wind above beds of tea roses, where the last of the bees still were busy." (page 53)
Your characters are so real! They were truly the best part of this novel. First there was Lea, an aging courtesan involved with Cheri, the son of her friend Charlotte.
"Thus, for a long time, she mused over her future, veering between alarm and resignation... She saw day follow day with clockwork monotony, and herself beside Charlotte Peloux - their spirited rivalry helping the time pass. In this way, she would be spared, for many years, the degrading listlessness of women past their prime, who abandon first their stays, then their hair-dye, and who finally no longer bother about the quality of their underclothes." (page 121)
Then there was the handsome Cheri (Fred), a play-boy type half her age. The exploration of his relationship with Lea in the first book was perfectly done. The inevitable breakup comes as he marries. However, neither has fully realized the importance of their relationship or imagined how difficult ending it would prove.

In The Last of Cheri, Cheri returns from the war, changed and aged, to a loveless marriage where he finds himself superfluous in his own household. Poor man...
"...he recoiled with unspeakable repugnance from the idea of the two of them living together in a home where love no longer held sway. His childhood as a bastard, his long adolescence as a ward, had taught him that the world, though people thought of it as reckless, was governed by a code almost as narrow-minded as middle class prejudice. In it, Cheri had learned that love is a question of money, infidelity, betrayals, and cowardly resignation. But now he was well on the way to forgetting the rules he had been taught, and to be repelled by acts of silent condescension." (page 259)
And, the ending? Although predictable, it was still very powerful. My husband, upon observing my mood while reading, said a couple of times "I don't think I like the book you're reading." Whatever... I loved it and can't wait to meet a new cast of your marvelous characters. Thank you.


  1. I had always thought Cheri a woman so thank you for opening my eyes to that. I read Colette's Vagabond as part of Paris in July. I'm not sure what mood Cheri put you in but I felt anxie reading The Vagabond. I can't say I loved it but it will stay with me. I now want to go back and read Gigi and I will see the darker side to it.

  2. I love your husband's comment! The book sounds very intriguing!

  3. Joan Hunter Dunn - I thought Cheri was a woman before I read the book, too! Cheri put me in a wistful, reflective sort of mood, but that turned more anxie with The Last of Cheri. Not sure which of her books I'll read next.

    Rhasodyinbooks - My husband often passes judgement on a book based on my mood while reading. He tends to 'enjoy' Jane Austen, but was relieved when I finished The Pilots Wife by Anita Shreve (about 10 yrs. ago). That book made me hate all men while I was reading it ;-)

  4. The comment from you hubby made me smile!! These both sound like fascinating reads.

  5. I really need to read Colette, don't I? I'm glad to hear you enjoyed these so much!

  6. I saw the film and was underwhelmed but I have the book on my shelf and this review had encouraged me to read it! Shame I am a bit late for Paris in July but better late than not turning up at all!

  7. How clever that you wrote this as a letter to Colette! Bet she would answer you--writing from bed (didn't she do her writing in bed?). Now I want to read her stories even more.

    Word veri: "mersi" (honest!)Which is what I want to say: thank you.

  8. I'm not much of a reader, but I'm certainly being tempted this month - so much french literature to learn so much more about the french... thanks again for playing with Paris in July..

  9. Oh how I love Colette. Now I have a burning desire to go back reread her works.

  10. Staci - Hubby does have a knack for judging a book based on my mood while reading!

    Nymeth - Hope you can find some time for Colette. I think you'd enjoy her!

    Rachel - I've seen mixed reviews of the film, but may still add it to the Netflix queue.

    DS - I think Colette did do her writing from bed. How appropriate, lol! Gotta love word verification... how do they do that?

    Tamara - There have been so many exciting literary offerings for Paris in July. I'm going to need to do this again. Thanks so much for hosting!

    Beth F - Now I need to decide what to read next. Maybe Gigi?

  11. I should really read Colette. I loved the movie version of Cheri (the costumes were amazing as was the storyline). I loved your husband's comments too!

  12. Whitney - The movie version of Cheri is at the top of my Netflix queue. Should have it for the weekend!


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