“My name is Claudine, I live in Montigny; I was born there in 1884; I shall probably not die there.” ~ Colette
This is my little Christmas present to you, dear followers of my blog. Not that there is anything remotely Christmas-sy about this book, but I do recommend it from the bottom of my faithful heart.
I came by Claudine at School quite innocently, a tattered copy of it in a second-hand bookshop in Dublin. Upon reading the back, it reminded me of the quite exquisite Bonjour Tristesse and I couldn’t resist.
As it turns out, Claudine at School is only the first of a series of four Claudine novels, and I have already gone and hunted down the others. Such is my desperation to have them all, and so I cannot be happier to review this for my Christmas post.
Claudine at School has at the center of it, Claudine of course, who is but a sixteen-year-old teenage girl in a rural school in the town of Montigny. And no teenage voice has ever been quite as ripe with sensuality, quick witted or as charming before in literature.
It is important to remember that these books were written in the early 1900’s, or perhaps even earlier by Colette under the orders of her husband, who then published them under his own name. They were translated into English, as you may imagine, at a much later date. When it had only started to become acceptable to be caught reading about women’s sexuality in a mass-printed format.
Claudine is beautiful, she is desirable and up to all sorts of mischief with her mates in school. There is sexual tension between the girls, between the staff and the teachers; and Colette isn’t shy to write about them. Needless to say, therefore, that this could very well be one of the earliest and more important books with a strong lesbian narrator.
I cannot praise the book enough for its charm and humour, just read it!
Why you should read it:
- If you ever enjoyed the more tame Enid Blyton versions such as Malory Towers, The Naughtiest Girl or St. Clare’s; this book is a bit of nostalgia in the same vein meant for an adult audience
- As a testament to breaking the constraints of time. The book is still relevant today in my opinion
Why you shouldn’t read it:
- If you intend on reading a book with a likable narrator, Claudine is quite the opposite
- If the story of teenage girls in a school seems childish to you