Fifteen year old Gigi is the daughter of a minor music-hall singer. Her grandmother and her great aunt, both one time members of the demi-monde, are trying to groom Gig to be a successful courtesan. But what Gaston, heir to a fortune in sugar, loves about Gigi is how natural she is.
For me, the most interesting thing about this story was the ruthless cynicism of the grandmother (now poor) and the great aunt (living off the fabulous diamonds and emeralds she acquired) as they educate this child into how to be a lady so that she can command a higher price.
Colette creates some wonderful characters with a few sure strokes of her pen. She also gives us some wonderful epigrams (although there was a moment when I felt that she was trying too hard to out Wilde Wilde):
- "The heron-like legs of a girl of fifteen" (p 7)
- "'But Grandmamma, I've got on my drawers and my petticoat.' 'Drawers are one thing, decorum is another.'" (p 8)
- "'Can't you ever manage to keep your legs together?'" (p 9)
- "'The three great stumbling-blocks in a girl's education, she says, are homard a l'Americaine, a boiled egg, and asparagus. Shoddy table manners, she says, have broken up many a happy home.'" (p 15)
- "Calling people and things by their names has never done anyone any good." (p 22)
- "For a woman, attention to the lower parts is the first law of self-respect." (p 24)
- "The telephone is of real use only to important businessmen, or to women who have something to hide." (p 26)
A lovely story but it rather left me wondering what people saw in Colette. I preferred the far less well known but, to my mind, infinitely better, The Cat.
September 2016; 50 pages