Tuesday, July 9, 2013
The Secret Life of Books, by Angela Gerst
It is a tricky business, writing fiction about real people; more so if the non-fictioner is your main character. Besides the boring risk of being sued, there is the problem or doing research, and the fact that many of your readers may have a strong sense of what your character should be like, and that may disagree with yours.
I think Gerst does a good job, although I have to say that before I knew the story I knew nothing about Colette except that she was a famous French author, and the creator of Gigi, which became a famous movie. So I may be off in my assessment of the story, but Gerst certainly convinced me she was drawing an accurate picture.
The story takes place late in Colette's life when her health makes her almost a prisoner in her apartment. A famous prisoner, with a steady stream of visitors, some famous, and some not. One of them is Roland, an ambitious chef whose boring chatter she tolerates for the extravagant dishes he brings her. Roland is marrying a much younger country lass, who hopes to save her family's dwindling estate. When someone gets killed, Colette must come to the rescue.
The writing is good, and here is my favorite example.
"How long will your dear husband be away?"
"Too long." Colette explained that Maurice was promoting her books in the world's richest land, "now that Europe has again reduced itself to ashes."
My darling Colette" -- Liane helped herself to more coffee -- "nobody reads in America."
"Oh, but there are so many of them, even nobody is ten thousand."