Monday, October 24, 2011
Do you read more than one book at a time? I do, and sometimes it works and sometimes it just doesn't. Recently I coincidentally happened to pair two tomes perfectly.
My rousing cries of 'Vive la France' could be heard for kilometers. Or at least the dogs came running....London doesn't speak French, but Paris does, of course. (Yes, my dogs are named after European cities. Next I want a sausage dog named Vienna.)
Patricia Highsmith's Ripley novel, Ripley Under Water (fiction) was a bit disturbing to me, but I couldn't stop reading. It was like being stuck in a traffic jam you know was caused by an accident, and, when you finally draw even with it being unable to look away despite your best intentions.
Set in France and francophone Magreb, the prose is lyrical, with references to smirking camels and yellow silk sofas and Brahms and the pattern of light reflected from a pond.
Ripley is concerned about the domestic business of a beautiful life--sketching, cutting flowers from the garden, playing the harpsichord, planning dinner, preparing for house guests and discussing the neighbours' lack of taste. To his elegant French wife he describes with a shudder the decor of Pritchards next door as 'Style rustique. From the supermarket. Truly heavy.'
He's also concerned about getting blamed for an old murder he thought was long buried (punny, eh?). And so he ruthlessly, coldly goes about protecting himself and his adored wife.
I read it at the same time as Pardon My French (non-fiction) by Charles Timoney, who absolutely charmed me and even taught me a thing or two. An Englishman in Paris, he works in a French firm and shares what he learns about the culture and language.
Now, without blowing my own horn, my French is pretty good and I've spent quite a bit of time in a French family. So I'm pretty confident (read smug) in these matters. What a surprise when Timoney both entertained and enlightened me in great measure.
So, wherever you live you can grab these two books, pour yourself a glass of red wine or brew a pot of tisane and loose yourself in a francophile world.