‘Little’ by Edward Carey is a fictionalised account of the early life of Madame Tussaud who founded the famous waxwork museum in London that bears her name. Born Anne Marie Grosholtz in 1761 and orphaned as a young child, she is employed by Swiss wax sculptor, Doctor Curtius, who makes anatomical models in his studio and names his young apprentice ‘Little’ on account of her small stature. When Curtius’ financial difficulties finally catch up with him, they move to Paris where they take rooms with widow Charlotte Picot who helps transform the business and set up popular exhibitions displaying wax replicas of the heads of noblemen and famous murderers. She banishes Marie to work in the kitchen out of jealousy but following a surprise visit by Princess Elisabeth, the youngest sister of King Louis XVI, Marie is invited to become her wax modelling tutor at the Palace of Versailles. However, with revolution on the horizon, nobody associated with the Royal Family is safe from the threat of the guillotine. Continue reading
Tag Archives: Paris
Winner of the prestigious Prix Goncourt and recently translated from the French by Sam Taylor, ‘Lullaby’ by Leïla Slimani has been one of the most talked-about novels so far this year, partly inspired by a real-life case of a nanny who killed two children in New York in 2012. Paul and Myriam live in a fashionable area of north-west Paris with their two young children, Mila and Adam. Paul works in the music business and Myriam is a criminal lawyer of North African descent who hires a nanny, Louise, to look after the children when she decides to resume her career. Initially, Louise appears to be perfect and indispensable to the family, but her behaviour becomes increasingly concerning. Continue reading
After a break from Man Booker International Prize shadowing duties last month, I have returned to reading translated fiction with ‘Based on a True Story’ by Delphine de Vigan translated from the French by George Miller. It is about a middle-aged Parisian author, Delphine, who is befriended by a woman known throughout only as “L.” who claims to be a professional ghostwriter. L.’s presence gradually takes over every aspect of Delphine’s life to the point where their close friendship turns into something far more sinister.
I first came across Georges Perec’s work at university through his first novel ‘Things: A Story of the Sixties’ which was by far the most interesting book I had to read for one of my French literature modules focusing on consumerism. I’ve had ‘Life: A User’s Manual’ on my TBR list ever since which is probably Perec’s best known novel published in 1978 and translated from the French by David Bellos in 1987. Continue reading
Translated from the French by Frank Wynne, ‘The Great Swindle’ is something of a departure for Pierre Lemaitre from his crime fiction series of novels featuring detective Camille Verhoeven. Originally titled ‘Au-revoir là-haut’, it won the Prix Goncourt in 2013 which is one of the most prestigious literary prizes in France. In the final days of the First World War, Lieutenant Henri d’Aulnay-Pradelle secretly shoots two of his own men in the back to make other troops believe they were killed by the enemy and provoke a final attack on the Germans, thus establishing his reputation as a war hero. However, Albert Maillard and Édouard Péricourt have witnessed his crime and are gravely injured when Aulnay-Pradelle attempts to kill them too. After the armistice, Édouard assumes the identity of another dead soldier and embarks on an elaborate money-making scheme with Albert. Continue reading
‘The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance’ is Edmund de Waal’s highly acclaimed memoir tracing his family history through a collection of objects. In the early 1990s, De Waal studied ceramics in Tokyo as part of a two-year scholarship where he met his great-uncle Ignace (Iggie). Following Iggie’s partner’s death, de Waal inherited 264 Japanese miniature wood and ivory carvings known as netsuke often representing animals, people or mythical creatures. Traditionally used as toggles to attach carrying pouches to Japanese robes, netsuke were originally designed to be useful everyday objects rather than purely decorative ones. De Waal became intrigued by the story behind the collection and how it came to be passed down through the generations of his family across the world. Continue reading
Originally published as ‘L’Homme pressé’ in 1941, ‘The Man in a Hurry’ by Paul Morand has recently been translated from the French by Euan Cameron and printed by Pushkin Press. It tells the story of Pierre Niox, a Parisian antiques dealer who is permanently in a rush to get things done. His friends, business partner, valet and even his cat can’t keep up with his frenetic pace of life and gradually abandon him. However, when Pierre falls in love with the laidback and easy-going Hedwige, he is forced to adapt his impulsive behaviour to win her over by learning how to settle down and savour the simple things in life. Continue reading