I can’t believe I had never heard of Colette until a couple of months ago! Of course I recognised the film posters for the musical of Gigi, but had never seen it and wasn’t even aware that it was based on a book. I feel as though I have been living on another planet!
This book is made up of two short stories and is the perfect introduction to this brand spanking new (for me, anyway) author. In a short amount of pages, Colette manages to show off her power over the written word. She sets the scene, creates an atmosphere and then whisks you through bizarre situations with some witty dialogue to keep things interesting.
The dialogue in Gigi is particularly important. Young and excitable Gilberte, known as Gigi, is being trained by her grandmother and aunt in the art of seduction. The contrast between these characters is what makes the dialogue so amusing, and gives a lighthearted feel to the novella. But there is still a slight whiff of seediness and an unpleasant undertone.
Enter Gaston Lachaille, a rich and bland family friend in his thirties who has known Gigi for years. Charmed by Gigi’s fresh and childish confidence, he begins to see her in a new light. But Gigi is not interested in the life of a courtesan and does not want to be used and thrown away by Gaston, like countless other women. She refuses to go along with all the plans that have been laid out for her.
I can’t work out whether Gigi’s character is more calculating than the reader realises, or whether she is an honest romantic, but there is something about her that I like. Her character makes me smile with her lively outbursts and silly remarks. And it is always good to have a headstrong female in literature!
The second, longer novella in the book is the one that first got my attention. I am a huge cat lover and always prick up my ears when I hear about something cat related. Simply named The Cat, this story is about a strange love triangle between Alain, his new wife Camille and Saha, his beautiful Russian Blue.
Like Gigi, I thought this was going to be an amusing novella, but I actually found it slightly disturbing, although still entertaining. Alain is an only child and feels safe and happy within his little world at his childhood home. He has a special bond with his cat, who loves him very much and ‘understands’ him. But when he marries Camille, the passionate, modern young woman, Alain can’t adjust to life in a small, ninth floor apartment without his Saha.
Any other man would feel lucky to have such a demonstrative, good looking woman in his bed every night, but Alain only finds her inappropriate and resents her obvious desires. The prudish thoughts that often run through Alain’s head when Camille is walking around the apartment naked or staring sensually into his eyes are bordering on hilarious, but they also make me feel sad. Poor Alain is in a loveless marriage and can’t stand his wife but most all he misses Saha and can’t love anyone else.
The Cat should not be missed, it is the perfect length and portrays these rather strange characters wonderfully. The quirky storyline sounds strange and unnatural, but when you read Colette’s descriptions, you soon realise that she also ‘understands’ cats. Any cat lover will appreciate sentences like these: ‘A silver shadow leapt out of a clump of bushes and glided like a fish against Alain’s ankles’ and ‘Those deep-set eyes were proud and suspicious, completely masters of themselves.’
If you enjoy quirky, unusual love stories, odd characters and brilliant writing, then this is a collection that you should definitely read! Especially if you are a fan of our furry feline friends.
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