Sunday, April 21, 2013

Dreaming of France -- French Book

Please join this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.
Maybe we can all satisfy our yearnings for France, until we get there again.

I read Bitter Almonds by Laurence Cossé a French author. The novel is set in Paris. The main character, Edith, is a middle class French mother. She agrees to hire the building supervisor's mother to do her ironing three hours each week. The woman in her 60s, Fadila, is from Morocco. From the beginning, Edith is annoyed with Fadila because she doesn't keep regular hours. Soon, Edith learns that Fadila never learned to read or write, either in Arabic or French.
Before long, she is bringing letters, often still sealed. Bills, summons, advertisements, she can't tell them apart, any form of mail frightens her. She has to get someone else to read it to her. "I'm stupid," she says. She doesn't know how to sign her name: she just scribbles a little zigzag. 
I don't know much about translating, but I'm assuming the person who translated this novel followed the writing style of the French author. It is simple and direct. Nothing superfluous was added to this book. Edith soon gets to know Fadila much better as she attempts to teach her how to read and write. As they work on the letters and words, Edith becomes aware of the very different life that Fadila lives right there in Paris. Her apartment in a tiny, airless room where she lies awake at night feeling claustrophobic. Her adult children take the money she earns ironing and rarely spend time with her. Edith and her reading lessons help fill the gap.
I can't really explain why I enjoyed this book. There were no flashy French meals described or rich descriptions of Paris. Instead, it was the everyday French culture that I enjoyed visiting, and like Edith, I learned about the immigrant culture there as well. The book caught my attention and I finished it pretty quickly. I'd recommend this book.
This book also counts for my book challenge, Books on France by Emma at Words and Peace.


Sim Carter said...

Well you know my first question - would it make a good movie? Ha ha!
I like the sound of it; including the clear but strong writing.
My post includes a couple of pictures of Paris locations shown in the movie Mr. Morgan's Last Love; I'm wondering if anyone knows where they are. They're in Paris but I'd like to know where. Help!

Louise said...

That sounds a great read Paulita, I'll look out for it. I enjoy French authors, but am not terribly knowledgable.

Jacqui Brown said...

Another one to add to my list, thanks xx

Sim Carter said...

Hi Paulita, I had a wierd glitch on my blog; I didn't realize it was configured so that people had to sign up for a google+ account in order to comment; I think I've fixed the glitch but the fix erased your Dreaming of France comment today. If you have time can I prevail upon you to re-enter a little something? Merci!

Anonymous said...

I enjoy this writer very much, need to read this new one. thanks for your review and link to my Reading Challenge

Jackie McGuinness said...

I'm late this week!!
This book sounds really good, adding it to my TBR list, thanks!

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