Fanchon the Cricket

It’s been a long road, but I have finally, FINALLY, found a French author I love. I thought it would never happen, but George Sand is quite lovely.

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Fanchon the Cricket, or La Petite Fadette, is a beautiful book, almost an adult fairy tale. Twins are born to a prosperous farmer with an already large family. His wife despairs, knowing that twins are notoriously hard to raise. The local medicine woman (see also:  witch) whom everyone fears/hates, and warns her–don’t raise them the same. Put them in different clothes, make them play separately, and give them different jobs.

Do they listen? Of course not! The family is already large, and there is no reason to hire a nurse for one of the babies when Mom has enough milk for both (the advice had been to nurse apart), and as the boys grew they were inseparable at everything, down to their color preferences on scarves. However, at age 15, there was only space for one to be apprenticed, and the younger, being slightly more independent, took the job. His brother Sylvain was devastated, and visited almost every day. He couldn’t stand to be separated.

One day, hurt from Landry’s growing independence, he disappears into the woods. Landry meets a wild young girl, Fanchon, while trying to find him. She helps him, but in return, Landry has to promise to dance with her. I’ll stop here as I don’t want to give any more away, but drama ensues.

This is a classic story of not judging a book by it’s cover. The judgment is harsh in this one. I will say there is a bit of a “take the glasses off the nerd and she’s way prettier” kind of bibbity-bobbity-boop element, but the moral is more about the reverse–pointing the finger at the judgement of others.

It also focuses pretty strongly on depression as a physical illness, which I found interesting. I wish I didn’t find that character absolutely obnoxious, but I appreciated that his infirm was treated as such a big deal, and more than once.

This is a short book, but a big one, and one I will read more than once. It is going on my “To Buy” list for sure, I definitely need it on my shelf pronto!

 

French History

Whether it is just the chunk of the Boxall list I am working through at the moment, or the random books I am choosing from my Goodreads list–for some reason I seem to be reading a lot of French literature lately.

Or trying to.

I am getting really frustrated, because I am not enjoying the books as much as I want to. Either they are taking way too long to read, or I just find them excruciatingly boring. Mauprat wasn’t bad, but I am into my second Dumas novel, and I think I have figured out why I hate him so much.

Dumas writes about real events–his books are basically James Bond books of the 1800s. They are about espionage and war and real kings. Maybe the heroes are fictional, but all the history is real.

And I do not know that history, so I am COMPLETELY lost. Hence my frustration! I know all about British history, because I’ve been reading about it for years…but French? Nada. I know there were rough relations with the Spanish for awhile, but I don’t know if they ever went to war. And I know there was a revolution with Napoleon…which I think is what this book is talking about. But without Googling it, I couldn’t even tell you what happened there. It has been years since my World History class in high school.

So. Dear readers. I need your help. Enlighten me. I need more French History. What are your favorites? Biographies. Period histories. Fact-based historical fiction about real people (you know the kind I like…I’m not talking romance novels here). Give me some good stuff that I can read up on the kings and queens and drama.

And don’t worry…I probably will use Google. But reading in depth is so much better! Thanks for your help!

French Literature

This was originally meant to be a review of Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way, but….I am not going to finish it. At least, not yet. It is going back on my To Read list for now. I got about 25% of the way through it, and I just cannot get through it.

It is always extremely frustrating to me when I cannot finish a book–especially one that is on the Boxall’s list, as Proust is. I feel that I should push on through, these books are IMPORTANT for one reason or another, why am I not smart enough to understand them? And so, maybe, I read them for a little bit longer than I should. Maybe, I am just not ready for them, right now. I haven’t read enough of something else to get me to that point. My mind isn’t in the right place. I should just come back later. But I just have a really really hard time doing that. It messes up my perfectly organized book charts. And it’s hard to mark on Goodreads. Do I count it as read? Should it count towards the Boxall challenge and go on the list? UGH! It makes me crazy.

I am learning that there is a definite style difference (as opposed to English lit) that just does not appeal to me in French literature. Something in the sentence structure, maybe, I don’t know, but it is so hard for me to really focus in on the story. I don’t get immersed into the pages like I do with most other books. I seem to fight against the language–like a newly-awakened coma patient, fighting against the breathing tube. I am being forced into a rhythm that is unnatural to me.

I often find, too, that French lit seems to focus on the setting and environmental aspects that I don’t consider necessary. I think maybe that is why I often find the writing “shallow.” The clothes are so often mentioned, or in one book, it was all about people’s nails. What? Proust is just all over the place. He will be describing a situation, and then he will just go off on this philosophical tangent and I just cannot follow what is going on at all. There is just so little actual dialogue, so the books are very monotonal.

I think I’m going to add Swann’s Way to my chapter-by-chapter list (more on that later) and see how it goes at another time. I’m not writing it off completely, but I just can’t get through it right now.

 

What do you think about French literature? Any tricks to get through it? I know some people just LOVE Proust–Virginia Woolf was a huge fan, and so I feel like I’m missing something here.