Book Review: Claudine at School

Claudine at SchoolClaudine at School by Colette

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Last year, the movie Colette came out. I was entranced by the trailer— seeing as it is a feminist period piece about a controversial French LGBTQ+ writer during the turn of the 20th century— and saw it soon after it came out. I ended up rather enjoying the film, and while it may not have entirely been “spectacular cinema”, it inspired me to pick up the whole collection of the Claudine books, conveniently compiled in an omnibus, that I found at my local used bookstore for a bargain price. Claudine at School is the first of the four-part series.

A bildungsroman and semi-autobiographical, this book focuses on the eponymous Claudine; we get insight on her life through an intimate journal. Her greatest joy is attending school; her personality is marked by a cunning that gets joy out of teasing and harassing her classmates, notably Anais, to whom she repeatedly refers as “lanky”, “gawky”, and a “great slut”. Claudine is also very flirtatious; when the new headmistress, Miss Sergent and her assistant, Miss Lanthenay, arrive, she takes a strong liking to the latter, which draws the jealousy of the former. It’s a love triangle that brought great scandal to Colette for its homoerotic nature.

Truthfully, this book has little plot— it is mostly just a playful look into the lives of the schoolgirls, with some drama thrown in—but that didn’t stop me from finding it enjoyable. I simply love Claudine’s character, bitchy as she may be; her tricks and machinations amused me endlessly and her wit abounds.

Oh, what unwholesome imagination, what depraved brain incubates those revolting [arithmetic] problems with which they torture us? I detest them! And the workmen who band together to complicate the amount of work of which they are capable, who divide themselves into two squads, one of which uses one-third more strength than the other, while the other, by way of compensation, works two hours longer! And the number of needles a seamstress uses in twenty-five years when she uses needles at 50 centimes a packet for eleven years, and needles at 75 centimes for the rest of the time but if the ones at 75 centimes are … etc., etc.… And the locomotives that diabolically complicate their speeds, their times of departure, and the state of health of their drivers! Odious suppositions, improbable hypotheses that have made me refractory to arithmetic for the rest of my life!

(— pg. 25)

Colette’s knack for imagery is seamless; I loved reading the delicate paragraphs about Montigny’s verdant landscapes or Claudine’s meandering musings. And sometimes among the sly parentheticals and vivid descriptions you get these sudden, poetic quotes that provide a stark contrast against the casual humor…


“I have lived ten years of wild rovings, of conquests and discoveries, in those woods; the day when I have to leave them my heart will be very heavy. (— pg. 3)


Overall, I thought this to be a wonderfully entertaining romp through the clever, unconventional mind of a schoolgirl (and author). Of course, there are bits that detract from my praise, like the slow pace at certain points and the lack of true plot, but these were easily overlooked. Claudine at School is great for lighthearted reading, and I am excited to see where the rest of her adventures take her in the following novels!

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Book Review: The Secret History

The Secret History BY DONNA TARTT

GENRE  Psychological thriller

Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality they slip gradually from obsession to corruption and betrayal, and at last – inexorably – into evil.

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Happy New Year! + My Resolutions for 2019

2018, to be honest, has been a mixed bag. While there were some great highlights like attending Governor’s School for the Arts, getting my painting into a local exhibition, receiving an acceptance letter from a university, and breaking out of my shell (perhaps my greatest accomplishment thus far in my life), far more aspects ended up making my year dissatisfying.

I feel like I lacked mental growth this year; I have been glued to my social media, have been dishonest with others and myself, I failed NaNoWriMo, didn’t meet my reading goal, and, worst of all, I practically failed a class (and that class is, believe it or not, art). Too many things I wish I had done differently.

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Film Review: Christmas at Pemberley Manor (2018)

Before I start this post, I would like to wish anyone who’s reading a (late) Merry Christmas and happy holidays! Hopefully you all had fun and spent some time with your friends and family unlike I who was laying in bed working on a fanfiction while my parents were in Vegas partying it up.

I’m going to be doing a brief film review of Hallmark’s Christmas at Pemberley Manor because if you haven’t noticed yet, I’m obsessed with Pride and Prejudice and love watching any adaptations of the novel. As a disclaimer, this is my first time watching a Hallmark Christmas movie, so the popular critiques I’ve heard about the “genre” (for instance that they’re all formulaic, slightly altered versions of each other), will be disregarded in my review.

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Coffee at Pemberley’s

I’ve been working (somewhat sporadically) on a modern Pride and Prejudice AU, and yes, as you can tell from the title, it’s a coffee shop AU. I’ve never actually put so much effort into a fan fiction before so this is a bit of a first to me.

The gist of the story is that Mr. Darcy owns a new coffee shop in town, which houses several interactions between the characters; meanwhile, the Bennets own a used bookstore. I’ve tried to retain the canonical personalities of the original novel but also want to add my own insight into aspects like the Bennet sisters’ relationships; I want to develop the less popular sisters whilst establishing closer bonds between them for a warm feel. Dialogue is one of the core features of my fic, just like the original novel.

It has felt somewhat difficult at times trying to transpose Austen’s personalities and dialogue into a modern setting; the cultural difference are so vast that I have to find other ways to make the interactions just as intriguing as in the novel. For instance, in the Georgian era, obviously there were no phones, so it would be much harder to stay in contact with people and text, meaning it was also harder to get close to others since you could not chat as readily. And then of course there’s the whole thing with men and women being separated; if they happened to be in the same room, though, they were constantly chaperoned by others. In our current era, this is hardly an issue. It feels like I’m stripping away all that glorious context to make room for this modern adaptation where things can progress much more rapidly and easily.

Nevertheless, if this premise sounds interesting to you, please do check out Coffee at Pemberley’s on my AO3 account. Thirty chapters are currently forecasted, though there may be less or there may be more. I’d also love to get some feedback from other writers or fans of Austen!

Your resident Pride and Prejudice fangirl,
Isabella

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Book Review: One Day in December

One Day in December by Josie Silver

GENRE  ROMANCE, Chick Lit

Laurie is pretty sure love at first sight doesn’t exist anywhere but the movies. But then, through a misted-up bus window one snowy December day, she sees a man who she knows instantly is the one. Their eyes meet, there’s a moment of pure magic … and then her bus drives away.

Certain they’re fated to find each other again, Laurie spends a year scanning every bus stop and cafe in London for him. But she doesn’t find him, not when it matters anyway. Instead they “reunite” at a Christmas party, when her best friend Sarah giddily introduces her new boyfriend to Laurie. It’s Jack, the man from the bus. It would be.

What follows for Laurie, Sarah, and Jack is ten years of friendship, heartbreak, missed opportunities, roads not taken, and destinies reconsidered. One Day in December is a joyous, heartwarming, and immensely moving love story to escape into and a reminder that fate takes inexplicable turns along the route to happiness.

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