So this is what you guys were raving about! I also though it was perfectly delightful (how can anyone think otherwise?) .
The curtain opens and we’re introduced to Gigi, a fifteen-year-old Parisian who is soon deemed ready to be groomed to follow in the footsteps of the other courtesans in her family. They are a social class apart: independent, educated and with a defined place in the fine society of turn-of-the-century Paris. I completely agree with Eva at A Striped Armchair about Colette’s capacity to creat a strong sense of atmosphere in only 60-odd pages, but unlike her, I didn’t feel the ennui. Instead, the story left me with an impression of dazzling light, bright colours and wisps of an old-fashioned floral perfume – it’s a perfect pearl of light-heartedness.
Actually, Colette wrote Gigi during the worst months of Paris’ Nazi Occupation, and it’s so rebelliously bright that it can only be guessed to have provided her with a welcome escape during those difficult times. From what I’ve also read about her other novels, it was on this one (only?) that she surrendered to a less cynical view of love.
I found myself wishing Gigi it had been written at the time it was set. What would the late-Victorian authors make of it? Can you imagine Thomas Hardy’s face while reading the delightfully a-moral and wicked dialogues? I like to think that Jane Austen (yes, I know she’s not Victorian!) would stifle a laugh behind her fan :)
Here’s an example:
“Call your mother, Gigi! Liane d’Exelmans has commited suicide”
The child replied with a long drawn-out “Oooh!” and asked, “Is she dead?”
“Of course not. She knows what she’s about.”
“How did she do it, Grandmamma? A revolver?”
Madame Alvarez looked pityingly at her granddaughter.
“The idea! Laudanam, as usual….My own diagnosis is that if Madame d’Exelmans goes on playing that game, she’ll end by ruining her stomach.”
“The last time she killed herself, Grandmamma, was for the sake of Prince Georgevitch, wasn’t it?”
“Where are your brains, my darling? It was for Count Berthou de Sauveterre.”
The one stone in my otherwise-comfortable shoe was Gigi’s age. I do wish she was just a bit older. One question: Can this be considered historical fiction since Colette wrote it in 1944?
I’ve also saw (for like, the 100th time) Gigi the movie for the “Read the book, see the movie” challenge over at Ready When You Are, C.B. It’s one of my favorite musicals and perfect for a rainy afternoon. I think I even enjoyed it more now that I’ve read the book and know more about the story. I don’t get tired of admiring the sets and costumes (Aunt Alicia’s bathroom in particular, is exactly as it should be).
Some of the dialogues are taken almost word-by-word from the book (just like My Fair Lady/Pygmalion) but I feel the movie filled the gaps in the right places without veering too much from the spirit of the orignal Gigi. Favorite scene: Gigi’s grand-entrance in the restaurant and seeing her chose Gaston’s cigar (in the book this is only a fleeting reference). I’m surprised this one escaped Hollywood’s re-make fever…