Le Rose et le noir by Catulle Mendès

le-rose-et-le-noir

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Genre: Romance, short stories

Medium: French paperback

Synopsis: Compiled by Le Chat Rouge, this anthology offers a wide array of Mendès’ romantic short stories which include mummies, princesses, and lots of flower imagery.

Review: Wow!  Where to begin!  First of all, I have to say that French isn’t my first language, so my review likely reflects that.  From a bilingual perspective, this book certainly challenged my vocabulary and had me breaking out my French-English dictionary quite a few times.  The language used in Mendès’ work is literary, figurative, and downright beautiful.  I wish I had read this alongside a river (or a lake), when the sun is shining, preferably with a flower in my hair–as opposed to in my bed, afraid of the dull, rainy winter.

I think out of all the short stories, La Momie is my favorite–it has just the right amount of deception and creepiness to it.  But, Mendès has quite the creative mind, so if a romance story involving a mummy isn’t for you, there’s sure to be something else in store.  He also has stories about princesses, stories about sacred trees, and stories about flowers.  Within some stories, the structure is absolutely beautiful, with an a parable-like feeling to them.  The way he introduces each story is unique, and each final sentence has a literary lilt to them: the kind that makes you wonder just how you ended up right where you are at that moment, and why you aren’t somewhere calmer, with less pollution, and with more charm.

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Un Lion très coquet/A Very Stylish Lion by Valérie Weishar-Giuliani

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Rating: ★★★★★

Genre: Children’s literature

Medium: French hardcover

Synopsis: Sergio the lion has a date, and he will do whatever it takes to get the perfect hairstyle.

Review: This story was so incredibly cute.  It features all of your typical African animals (read: lions, zebras, giraffes, monkeys, etc…) and their barbershops!  The illustrations were so detailed and cute, and what’s not to love about little Sergio?

The size of this story is perfect for reading out loud to a group of little ones, and the colors that are chosen for the illustrations are bright and captivating for an audience of any age.

La Petite communiste qui ne souriait jamais/The Little Communist Who Never Smiled by Lola Lafon

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Rating: ★★★★

Genre: Historical fiction, biography

Medium: French paperback

Synopsis: In the 70s, a small girl becomes one of the most important figures for her country and her sport.  Meet Nadia Comaneci, a gymnast who, by 1976, will have been the first person to get awarded a perfect 10.  After that, she will continue to win six more perfect 10s.  Lola Lafon interviews Nadia to get her perspective on Bela, her trainer, and Romania, which is undergoing a communist regime and views her as an idol.

Review: First of all, I have to say that part of the reason why I bought this book was because of how absolutely gorgeous it is.  Just look at that gold cover.  It has the ability to reflect what you put in front of it.  And, on the inside, the first and last couple pages are a deep red.  This sort of visual symbolism definitely piqued my interest, as well as the pose of the little gymnast on the cover.

Now, moving onto the story itself.  Can we even call it a story?  It is neither historical fiction nor biography, despite me putting it in those categories.  Lafon transcends genre with this novel thanks to her expert abilities to create a work that teeters between categories.  Lafon interviews Nadia to gain her perspective; includes past interviews, history, and context; and somehow creates a plot, literally of Nadia’s lifetime, that is well-done and not melodramatic.

And, I have to say that as a non-native French speaker and someone who’s interested in Romania, this book was very interesting and informative, both in language and in history.  I never knew the type of mental and physical stamina these girls needed to have in order to compete, and how their country affected them in its time of political change.  It is for all of these reasons which I give this book 4 stars!