Sunday, February 12, 2012

a sky is so small

Aside from being a total fox, Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, or just Colette as she is known, was an amazing writer. I first read My Mother's House and Sido and just wanted to curl up in this world with these beautiful french provincial characters. There is not a whole lot going on plot wise in these stories, the main thrust is characters. As I am a seriously character-driven reader, I adored her writing. I scoped out the local Half-Price books and found her collection of short stories, The Tender Shoot, and dove in.

The first of the short stories, "Belle-Vista",  follows Colette at a provincial hotel as she waits for her house to be worked on by contractors. The hotel is run by a lesbian couple that befriends Colette. They have another guest, a man named M. Daste, who provides special intrigue for Colette. 

"If I observed M. Daste more carefully than he deserved, it was because I am always terrified, when chance throws me among unknown people, of discovering some monstrosity in them. I search them to the core with a sharp, distasteful eye as one does a dressing-table drawer in a hotel bedroom. No old dressings? No hair-pins, no broken buttons, no crumbs of tobacco? Then I breath again and do not give it a second thought."

The second short stories is "Gribiche". Colette spent some time in theatre productions and ran into many interesting characters there. Gribiche was a young woman who worked there and had an acident. While bringing flowers and a collection of money for her, it becomes apparent that Gribiche is having an abortion aided by her mother (who does this for a living) and no doctor's aid. This is a great example on how unsafe abortions can be when they are no provided by trained medical professional and I will give you two guesses as to how young Gribiche fares. 

"These memories are distant, but precise. they rise out of the fog that inevitably drowns the long days of that particular time, the monotonous amusements of dress rehearsals and suppers at Pousset's, my alternations between animal gaiety and confused unhappiness, the split in my nature between a wild, frightened creature and one with a vast capacity for illusion. But it is a fog that leaves the faces of my friends intact and shinning clear."  - "The Kepi"

"The Rendezvous" is a story that does not have Colette as a character but rather follows a group of four on a vacation. One of the men and woman ,Bernard and Rose, are in a covert affair and arrange to met at night through meaningful looks. However when they reach the meeting point, a young man who was their guide earlier is there bleeding profusely. Bernard wants Rose to run back for help while he stops the bleeding but Rose is appaled by the fact that people will know she was out there with him and what a scandal that will be to her family. This causes Bernard to see her in a new light and he is left with the decision to help a man he does not know who is bleeding to death or to escort the woman he loves back to the hotel. 

I am going to skip a few short stories in this collection, not because I did not love them, but because I don't want this blog post to be to long to handle. "Rainy Moon" is a beautiful story about Colette interacting with two sisters who live in the house that she used to live in. One of these sisters is going through a severe breakdown and the other thinks she is using sorcery to kill her estranged husband.  In "Green Sealing Wax" we get another slice of Colette's parents and I just adore Sido and was so happy to see her again. The last two stories, "The Sick Child" and "The Photographer's Missus", both compliment each other well I think. In both we get a inside glimpse into two people who are eager for death and come face-to-face with it. 

"'What do you expect?' said my mother. 'She's an old maid.'
'But Mamma, she's married!'
'Do you really imagine,' retorted Sido acidly, 'people stop being old maids for a little thing like that?'

I really, really enjoyed this book and cannot wait to read more of Colette. Apparently she is best know for her work Gigi which was taken and turned to a play and musical, so I think I need to check that out. 

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