Review by Shellie for: La Vagabonde ~ by Colette (audio)
A classic feminist translation from French that’s a “romantic” story told by a heartbroken performer named Renee, who must choose between freedom and love during Victorian times.
About: Published in 1910 this is a short book that is supposedly a semi-autobiography from the interesting bohemian author – Colette. The story is told in first person by Renee Nere, the main character who has divorced her wealthy, philandering, artist husband after eight years of emotional torture. Damaged, much wiser, yet lonely, she has managed to support herself as a dancer and actor in Paris. Although not considered an acceptable profession for her social standing, it never-the-less gives Renee a sense of independence which is hard earned during a time when a woman’s independence was not common and, indeed, shunned.
When a wealthy gentleman falls in love with Renee and promises her the moon, and the dancer attempts to decide between marriage and independence - that is when the reader gets a glimpse into why this book is considered a feminist classic.
Thoughts: I truly enjoyed this book in audio, with its UK-English accented reader and its esoteric French phrase usage. (I speak 4 words of French and received horrible grades for it in high school, so did not understand most of it). Yet the English part of the book is descriptive and pleasant, if slightly long winded at times. At one point Renee travels the French countryside, and the letters Renee writes her would be lover are sweet indeed.
When doing research about the author, I found Colette to be an intriguing subject. Living a life that was not standard, she broke many social rules including affairs with a tabooed family member and women. Although this book does not have LGBT elements, it’s still feminist in nature and is not your happily-ever-after romance. But I think that is where its value lies, in a “realistic” example of a woman who goes against the social norms of the times and lives her life to the fullest.
I give this wonderful short novel (especially in its audio version) a 4-star rating and recommend it highly for those interested in anything French, Victorian classics, and feminist fiction.
Unabridged; read by Johanna Ward; translated by Charlotte Remfry Kidd; Blackstone Audio, Inc; 6 hours, 22 minutes; Sep 5, 2006.
For more information on Colette, see her English Wikipedia site. There is loads of juicy details about her well lived life there: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colette
This book review will be included in the Fill in the Gaps challenge.