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#Paris in July Fini!

Heading into the weekend….A French woman with her baguette and six bottles of wine, Paris, France, 1945. (Photo by Branson Decou)

  • Many thanks to Thyme for Tea for hosting
  • #ParisInJuly
  • To all the participants
  • ….I enjoyed
  • reading your posts!
  • See you all next year!

July 2021:

  1. La maison du chat qui pelote – H. Balzac (1830)  REVIEW
  2. La cagnotte – E. Labiche (1864)  REVIEW
  3. Pour une nuit d’amour – E. Zola (1880)  REVIEW
  4. Le Bourgeois gentilhomme – Molière (1670)  REVIEW
  5. J’Accuse – Émile Zola   REVIEW
  6. Âme brisée – A. Mizubayashi  REVIEW
  7. Charlotte – D. Foenkinos  REVIEW
  8. 4 French Films – REVIEW
  9. Le Dossier 113 – E. Gaboriau  REVIEW
  10. Une amie de la famille – J. Laclavetine  REVIEW
  11. La promesse de l’aube – Romain Gary  REVIEW
  12. Sign-up “Summer reading in other languages”
  13. Salammbô – G. Flaubert  REVIEW
  14. Henri Matisse: Rooms with a view – S. Blum  REVIEW

#Paris In July Henri Matisse

  • Author: S. Blum
  • Title: Henri Matisse: Rooms with a view
  • Published: 2010
  • #ParisInJuly


Quick Scan:

  1. Matisse studied and rearranged his rooms constantly.
  2. When he lived in hotels and small apartments his living quarters
  3. usually doubled as his studio.
  4. In a continuous engagement with these spaces he produced
  5. not only singular masterpieces but also developed a
  6. theme as rich as the traditional landscape or portrait.
  7. In each new phase of his art and with every change of residence.
  8. Matisse reinvented the theme of the window.



  1. This books weighs 3,5 pounds…a real ‘coffee table book’.
  2. But it is so worth your effort to carry it home from the library!
  3. 5 chapters with so many beautiful images and illuminating
  4. information about Matisse’s paintings
  5. Shirley Neilsen Blum (1932) is an
  6. American art historian, professor and author.
  7. She taught me that Matisse loved goldfish in bowls,
  8. that there is so much beauty in a window with curtains and awnings….
  9. and showed me Matisse’s magnificent design (pg 172-179)
  10. of a Catholic chapel in Vence France.
  11. I’ve been to the Vatican in Rome, to St. Patrick’s in NYC,
  12. ….visited the Notre Dame in Paris….but I would love to
  13. visit the South of France and bask in the artistic wonder
  14. that is “The Chapel of the Rosary”  (see Google) by Henri Matisse!



#Paris In July Flaubert

  • Author: Gustave Flaubert
  • Genre:  novel
  • Title:  Salammbô
  • Published:  1862
  • #ParisInJuly

  • Just awful!!
  • Avoid this book like the plague.
  • Greatest flaw…fraud.
  • Title Salammbo …you would think this
  • temptress was the main character.
  • One expects delicate moonlit gardens
  • ….one finds instead manure and blood and bone mixture.
  • War is the central character…and it was so boring.
  • Salammbo appears around 3 times in the book
  • …then she just fades away.
  • Flaubert is a great writer and I loved Mme Bovary.
  • In this book the author just wanted to show off his
  • vocabulary grounded in historical military dictionaries.
  • Honestly, I made it through 50% of the book.
  • The first couple of chapters give us dead burnt monkeys
  • falling onto banquet tables
  • …crucified lions, and a corrupt leper who
  • …drinks tisanes of powdered weasel.
  • Red flag:
  • …time to skim to last chapter and then throw the Livre de Poche
  • in the box titled “worst ever”!


#Sign-up post: Summer in other languages

  • During the pandemic 2020 I could not focus on my reading.
  • 2021 has been completely different.
  • I’ve discovered my French language skills again.
  • After a year with NO French….it took me just one book to
  • …tap into my vocabulary.
  • French is just like riding a bike
  • ….get in the saddle and off you go!

  • I discovered (…a bit late in a post on The Classics Club)
  • this wonderful challenge that “has my name on it”!
  • Lory at Entering the Enchanted Castle is running a new meme, 
  • Summer in Other Languages, which with its three levels of
  • commitment encourages bloggers to read works in foreign languages
  • other than English or at least in translation.
  • To find out more, take a look at Lory’s post here
  • This challenge runs officiallly from June 1 to August 31, 2021
  • …I’m tweaking it to my circumstances 1 July – 30 September.
  • I will read ONLY in French during these months.

  • Reading French in July:
  • La maison du chat qui pelote – H. Balzac (1830)  REVIEW
  • La cagnotte – E. Labiche (1864)  REVIEW
  • Pour une nuit d’amour – E. Zola (1880)  REVIEW
  • Le Bourgeois gentilhomme – Molière (1670)  REVIEW
  • J’Accuse – Émile Zola   REVIEW
  • Âme brisée – A. Mizubayashi (2019)  REVIEW
  • Charlotte – D. Foenkinos (2014) REVIEW
  • Le Dossier 113 – E. Gaboriau (1867)  REVIEW
  • Une amie de la famille – J. Laclavetine (2019) REVIEW
  • Un promesse de l’aube – Romain Gary (1960) REVIEW

  • Reading French in August:
  • ?

#Paris In July Romain Gary

  • Author: Romain Gary (1914-1980)
  • Genre:  memoir
  • Title:  La promesse de l’aube
  • Published:  1960
  • #ParisInJuly

  • I did not like this book
  • Weak point: the moments in history RG refers to are not linked
  • in chronological order (confusing).
  • Weak point: the book concentrated too much on Gary’s
  • mother. (…felt more like a homage to her than
  • autobiography of the author).
  • Weak point: What we did read about his life is uselessly detailed.
  • —“Romain Gary en rajoute”. (over did it)
  • — “C’est amploué”. (pompous, bombastic)
  • This book was a waste of my reading time.
  • #Décevant (…very disappointing)

Last thoughts:

  • If you want to read very touching story (autobiographical)
  • in French to brush up on your language skills
  • “… j’aurais préféré “Petit Pays”
  • …beaucoup plus émouvant et plus accessible”.
  • The book is by Gaël Faye….available also in English Amazon.


#Paris In July Laclavetine

Author: Jean-Marie Laclavetine
Genre: memoir
Title: Une amie de la famille
Published: 2019
Table of Contents: 222 pages



  • I discovered this book while searching the list of French literary prizes.
  • Laclavetine wrote Un amie de la famille fifty years after his sister Annie’s death.
  • He decided to reveal his heartbreak…
  • about the memory of one who is no longer spoken about.
  • Years after the accident when Annie’s parents saw a
  • a photo found in a shoebox….told their youngest son
  • who was 6 when his sister died that
  • it was “une amie de la famille”…never admitting their loss.


  • 30% of this book is a revelation of the strong love
  • between the author’s parents through letters found in the attic.
  • 30 % is about Laclavetine’s sister Annie (20 yr)
  • who died in an accident.
  • The most striking part of the
  • book is the moment Laclavetine receives his sister’s
  • letters that she wrote to her boyfriend a year before she died.
  • We discover a very troubled soul….that she kept hidden.
  • 40% is about the author’s thoughts feelings of trauma
  • that haunted his the rest of his life.
  • Quest: discover if the images the author remembers
  • of Annie and the accident correlate with reality.

Last thoughts:

  • This is a book full of reminiscences, reflexions and encounters
  • not a funeral monument for Annie…“une amie de la famille.”
  • Laclavetine leads us where memories live…in the depths of his childhood.
  • This is a very touching book but it just is not a great book.
  • In fact, I felt the book was more about the author than his sister.
  • Quote: Death made me what I am.
  • Weak point: I missed a feeling of deep loss with dignity.
  • It all centered around the author’s need to set the record straight
  • …and write a book!
  • By the way….he wrote a follow up this year
  • ….again squeezing yet another book out of Annie’s life.
  • #À éviter…vous gagnerez du temp
  • Avoid….and save your time!

Last thoughts:

  • Une amie de la famille reminds me of other books
  • in which the authors take the reader on a journey
  • about why they wrote their very personal books:
  • Retour à KillybegsS. Chalandon (The Troubles in Northern Ireland)
  • Available in english: Return to Killybegs
  • Le LambeauP Lançon (attack on Charlie Hebdo writers)
  • Available in english: Surviving Charlie Hebdo
  • This genre seems to capture the reader’s imagination.
  • Recommendation? leave Une amie de la famille on the shelf and open
  • Delphine de Vigan’s book Rien ne s’oppose à la nuit.
  • It is a stunning book about her mother – daughter relationship.
  • Available in english Nothing Holds Back the Night.


#Paris In July Gaboriau

  • Author: Émile Gaboriau (1832-1873)
  • Genre:  Crime fiction (pg 612)
  • Trivia: French writer, novelist, journalist,
  • …pioneer of detective fiction
  • Title:  Dossier 113
  • Published:  1867
  • #ParisInJuly

  • On the surface, the crime seems simple.
  • A bank’s secure safe is robbed.
  • One of the two men who holds the key must be guilty.
  • One key-holder is the bank’s owner who lives above the bank.
  • The other is the bank’s trusted manager
  • …a man like a son to the owner.
  • What if neither is guilty?
  • How did this safe, with every security measure known
  • and employed at the time, get robbed?
  • Leave it to Monsieur Lecoq of the Surete, a policeman of many disguises.
  • Book in 5 words:
  • Truth – deceit – betrayal – lies – murder.

Last thoughts:

  • Strong point: What a convoluted plot!!
  • I wanted to read something I could sink my teeth into
  • …well I got it!
  • Strong point: M. Lecoq seems to be 2 steps ahead of everyone!
  • The book is filled with all the delights of detective CF:
  • Letters:
  • Plot turns on the bundle of letters.
  • They are passed from character to character.
  • The reader feels tension about the letters
  • …concealment, interception, destruction or revelation ?

  • Eavesdropping behind curtains
  • Spying through keyholes
  • Secretly removing bullets from a gun
  • Carriage (fiacre) trick (…very clever!)

  • Disguise!
  • M. Lecoq is a master in disguise.
  • This reader had to really concentrate
  • Another name, description …”Is this Lecoq or not?”
  • The sleuth even managed to disguise himself
  • …while he was already in another costume.
  • When I think of M. Lecoq the best description
  • he is a series of Russian babushka dolls!
  • The reader is always waiting to see when the
  • outer layer will disappear!

  • It is a pity the name Émile Gaboriau has been
  • rather forgotten in the list of great detectives.
  • He was a source of inspiration for Conan Doyle.
  • I find his novels are anchored in reality
  • his investigations are skillfully crafted and
  • …in the end Gaboriau ties up all the loose ends!
  • The book also paints a naturalist
  • …painting of the ‘belle epoque’ in Paris!
  • Don’t hesitate to try one of Gaboriau’s books
  • I read in in French and it took me 10 days.
  • The language was easy to read but I read word for word
  • …not wanting to miss a clue!
  • Book is available in English on Amazon.


#Paris in July 4 French Films

My thoughts:

  • What a wonderful love story!
  • Beautiful, meaningful and gracefully funny.
  • Loved it
  • This film is as French as you can have:
  • Parisian cafe, cartoonist, beautiful elderly people and
  • overall aesthetics and manners of every single character.
  • This is the best short-trip to Paris you may have for now.
  • César Awards 2020
  • #CoupDeCoeur
Best Supporting Actress
Fanny Ardant (actress)
Best Original Screenplay
Nicolas Bedos (writer)

My Thoughts:

  • If you don’t like this movie after the first fifteen minutes,
  • you can just as well stop watching.
  • It doesn’t get any better .
  • No ending, no philosophy, no deep moments, nothing.
  • Truly one of the worst French movies
  • I have ever seen!
  • #Awful

My thoughts:

  • A French comedy-drama film that has become the third
  • biggest foreign film and biggest foreign language film of all time.
  • It’s also received rave reviews.
  • The film is beloved the world over but perhaps just a little over-hyped.
  • It’s a good movie but it is clichéd and somewhat simple and unoriginal.
  • César Awards 2012
  • Best Actor (Meilleur acteur) Omar Sy
  • #Entertaining

My thoughts:

  • This is painful to watch.
  • It is a gross and clumsy comedy.
  • A lavish wedding in a 17th Century mansion goes manically awry.
  • The movie aims for humor rather than satire
  • …but misses the target.
  • I expected to laugh with this movie.
  • With such a good press, so many nominations…
  • but the truth is I did not laugh at anything.
  • If you like to watch 1 hr 57 minutes of
  • high-pitched screaming matches….and in French
  • …this is your movie!
  • #WasteOfTime


#Paris in July 2021 “Charlotte”

  • Author:  David Foenkinos
  • Genre:  adapted  biography
  • Title:  Charlotte
  • Published:  2014
  • Language: French (also available in English)
  • Setting: France and Germany
  • Timeline: 1913 – 1943 
  • Trivia: This book won Le  Prix Renaudot 2014 .
  • #ParisInJuly


  • Charlotte learned to read her first name on a tombstone.
  • This is the first line of the book. She was named after her aunt who committed suicide.
  • Death is at the heart of Charlotte’s life.
  •  Charlotte Salomon was born in 1917, to Albert Salomon, a surgeon, and Fraziska Grunwald.
  • The Salomon’s were a liberal family that defined themselves as “Germans of the Mosaic persuasion.”
  • In 1939, after Kristallnacht, Charlotte was forced to leave her home in Germany, and she moved to her grandparent’s  home in France.
  • The book begins with Charlotte’s aunt’s suicide.
  • Foenkinos goes on to tell the story of  Charlotte’s  life and that of her family during World War II, her parents Albert and Franziska’s courtship, marriage, Charlotte’s birth, and the loss of her mother (also a …..suicide).
  • In October 1943 Charlotte was captured and deported to Auschwitz  where she and her unborn child were gassed to death.


  • The author does not describe the clothing, face or body of his characters.
  • Foenkinos is unique: he lets us “see people through the lens of their obsessions
  • (quote from: Francine Prose, Goldengrove).
  • Franziska – obsessed with ‘au-delà, the hearafter, death (pg 25)
  • Albert – obsessed with work, he buries himself, flees
  • il s’enfouit, s’enfuit dans le travaille. (pg 33)
  • Charlotte – obsessed with painting her family history.
  • David Foenkinos (author) – “sa vie est devenue mon obsession” (pg 174)

What makes this book unique? 

  1. Foenkinos uses special story structure to keep the action  moving forward.
  2. Layout will surprise the reader, it  looks like a poem!
  3. The author uses many literary devices  ( antithesis, rhythm, anaphora, heterograph, italics)
  4. He does allow the action to slow down when appropriate to emphasize the importance of  events.
  5. There are VERY short paragraphs, sentences,  sentence fragments and chapters
  6. There is practically no description or direct dialogue.( adjectives, adverbs)
  7. Punctuation:  NO quotation marks for direct dialogue!
  8. Foenkinos uses  rhyme  to give the narrative a flow, poetic rhythm. Beautiful!

Symbol: PIANO

  • The piano   represents communication. Playing the piano is way to break the silence.
  • After Charlotte’s suicide the family refused to speak for fear that their daughter would be mentioned.
  • The silence was broken when Franziska put her finger on the piano (pg 17).
  • Franziska shows signs of bipolar disorder.
  • She is lethargic, absent and unstable. During a soirée she suddenly sits at the piano.
  • This way she finally moved her lips and conversed with the musical notes. (pg 24)
  • Silence is palpable.
  • The piano stands alone and quiet during Christmas. Charlotte and the piano are orphans without her mother. (pg 37).
  • The silence is broken when Paula ( future 2nd wife of Albert) approaches the piano and sings. (pg 40).

Symbol: WINDOW

  • The window represents for  Franziska an escape from an intolerable situation.
  • Depression.
  • She jumps out of a window to commit suicide. (pg 18)
  • The window represents for Charlotte a bridge between the inside, life without mother, and the outside.
  • Charlotte is often looking towards the sky searching  for her mother  (au ciel) ( pg 32).

Stolpersteine ( pg 42)

  • Foenkinos tells the reader about the ‘stumbling stone’ in front of Salomon’s house in Berlin.
  • With bended head one can search for her memory among the pavestones.
  • On the building at Weilandstrasse 15 are three names Paula, Albert and Charlotte.
  • But there was only one deportation victim and that was Charlotte


  • Foenkinos has reduced the life of Charlotte Salomon to the essential.
  • Carefully chosen words, short sentences and a minimal use of modifiers.
  • The result is a exquisite book ‘painted in words’ .
  • The author reveals the relics of better times and vanished luxuries that were once Charlotte Salomon’s .
  • Strong point:  Foenkinos is a master of the French language! ( see examples)
  • Sometimes I have to close the book and  let the emotions suside.
  • Moments that took my breath away:

Last thoughts:

  • Foenkinos has painted  an unforgettable portrait of Charlotte Salomon.
  • He also described  his  journey  to  Charlotte Salomon in Berlin and the south of France.
  • He wanted to write the way she painted,.
  • I was captivated by this book and Foenkinos’s talent.
  • It was a very easy book to read it would be my nummer one choice for anyone wanting to practice their French reading skills.
  • Foenkinos truly  deserves Le Prix  Renaudot 2014….but I hoped he would win Le Prix Goncourt 2014.
  • Maybe next time….
  • Coup de coeur, un régal!  ( this book is a favorite…a real treat!)

Score:  5+


#Paris In July Âme brisée

  • Author: Akira Mizubayashi (1951)
  • Genre:  novel
  • Title:  Âme brisée
  • Published:  2019
  • #ParisInJuly

  • This is a novel written by a french speaking Japanese.
  • I found the language uncomplicated even simple
  • …and very, very easy to read.
  • This would be an excellent choice for a high-school level french reader.
  • Weak point: mood, it represents the emotional quality of a story.
  • I found every page filled to the brim with nostalgia, heartache,
  • and a longing to make sense of a family’s past.
  • It was just too much.
  • Strong point: sentimentality…if that’s what you are looking for!
  • Readers need to care about the story and the characters
  • and taping into emotions is the way to go.
  • Unfortunately, I did NOT care about the Japanses Rei (son), Yu (father)
  • … and the Chinese Lieutenant Kurokami.
  • Weak point: pace…the book had too many scenes that simply aren’t going anywhere.
  • Many pages to describe playing the violin, deep emotional reaction to classical
  • music by Schubert and Bach and scratching a dog behind its ear!
  • Weak point: Mizubayashi does not spare himself by releasing a waterfall
  • of details (…about music and the violin) that managed to kill all my interest.

Last thoughts:

  • Seduced by the cover
  • …I expected to swept away by the story.
  • It just did not happen.
  • Prix des libraires 2020 is incomprehensible!
  • Message: don’t judge a book by its cover….ever again!
  • #Décevant….disappointing