Category Archives: Francophones Unite!

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Verne

Jules Verne 1870

(Note: 1 league = 3.45 miles)

If you wanted to write a book about all the cool places in the ocean, and if you were a scientist who had studied the classifications of many hundreds of species, you would write this book. What better frame: a professor, curious about everything, who gets invited on a fantastic-al submarine voyage, where he studies both the enigma of Nemo and the enigma of the seas. With creative yet impressive or too-convenient inventions, the furtive Captain Nemo takes Prof. Aronnax from wonder to wonder circling the globe–and then some.

Prepare yourself for awe. Verne wrote this I feel to talk about the splendid places below the waves that he could share his visions with the people of the 1850s. But I said to prepare yourself because the moments of awe are sometimes tucked in long paragraphs of descriptions of fish and fauna. Jules Verne loves himself a fish. He also loves a startling vista, which he offers many even fathoms under the ocean, and he loves a scene of human interest. Continue reading

Le premier jardin

Anne Hébert

Entrez dans le monde de l’actrice Flora Fontagne quand elle retourne à son pays natal, la place à laquelle elle a juré de jamais retourné.  Elle explore la ville de Québec où elle lutte avec son passé caché et essaie de trouver sa fille.  Pour remplir le vide de son propre histoire et identité, elle crée et joue des rôles du passé du Québec.  Grace à ces imaginations, on apprend beaucoup concernant l’histoire de la ville mais surtout concernant Flora Fontagnes elle-même.

En tout c’est un roman interéssant, avec beaucoup de symbolisme.  Hébert examine l’epreuve de s’occuper d’un passé tragique/difficile et le travail dur qu’on fait pour être “actrice.”  Je pense aussi qu’elle aime beaucoup la France.

Le Silence de la Mer

par Vercors (Jean Bruller), 1942

Published covertly in Nazi-occupied France, this was a publication for the French people, a sort of “guide for la Resistance” to this country still dazed and reeling from the invasion.  There were underground publications of newspapers going on, but Vercors approached a publisher to do this larger project.  It is a short story, only 50 pages, but still very good and with psychological depth in its intricacies of symbolism and character interactions, as well as an inspiring greater message.

The story enfolds as two lower soldiers examine the narrator’s house.  Several comings and goings later a soldier tells the man and his niece that there will be an officer staying in their house.  When they meet him he is actually fluent in French and very polite.  Still, neither the niece nor the narrator utter a word or even acknowledge him.  This was the start of an unspoken agreement that they would continue their lives as usual as if he had never came. Continue reading

Queen of Babble

by Meg Cabot

From Booklist: “Lizzie Nichols, a fashion-history major, wants nothing more than to graduate college and then fly off to London to be with her boyfriend, Andy. But at her graduation party, Lizzie finds out that she can’t graduate until she writes a senior thesis. And when she lands in London, Andy turns out to be a liar, gambler, and a fashion disaster. Lizzie, stuck in London with an unchangeable ticket home, escapes Andy via the Chunnel in hopes that her friend Shari, who is catering weddings for the summer at a French château, can help. On the train, Lizzie meets a stranger, Jean-Luc, and spills everything that has happened, only to find out that he is the son of the château’s owner. At the château, Lizzie continues to babble when she shouldn’t, ticking off Jean-Luc, shocking his mother, and upsetting a bride. Will she ever learn to keep her mouth shut?”

Warning, this book lives up to its name.  At times Lizzie’s internal babbling was so distracting I would lose the real conversation.  But I’m sure this was intended, just like in real life when we talk to ourselves and get lost in our own thoughts sometimes we look up and the scenery has changed.  One place though that irked me was when she was illusioning that Luke was a kidnapper/murder preying on innocent travelers.  It’s like, come on, even YOU should be able to see that you will end up together! Continue reading

The King’s Daughter

by Suzanne Martel

Wow, exceeded my expectations.  I hated the cover picture but couldn’t pass up a book about Québec for $1, and I was pleased to find that it as a lovely classic look underneath.  My mother also read and enjoyed this novel, which I would recommend to others interested in the frontier of Quebec from a historical fiction perspective.  I think this book also helped me appreciate Le Premier Jardin more.

{From the publisher:  A historical novel that realistically depicts life in 17th-century Quebec from the point of view of a French teenager.  In 1672, eighteen-year-old Jeanne Chatel has just been chosen as a “king’s daughter”, one of the hundreds of young women sent to the wilderness of North America by the French government to become the brides of farmers, soldiers, and trappers.

Jeanne has been raised in a convent. But with her independent spirit, she doesn’t hesitate when she’s given the chance to go to New France. Her vivid imagination conjures up a brilliant new life full of romance and adventure.

Upon arrival, however, Jeanne discovers that she must put aside her romantic dreams.  Her husband is not a dashing young military officer, but a proud, silent trapper who lives with his two small children in a remote cabin.  Jeanne must draw on all her courage and imagination to adjust to this backwoods life and respond to the dangers that surround her.  She learns to paddle a canoe and fire a musket, masquerades as a man to save her husband’s fur-trading permit, and fights off marauding Indians.  By the end of a year, she has won the love of her husband and his family — and at last feels truly at home in her new land.

The King’s Daughter is a classic story of adventure and discovery, a tale for every young reader looking for a plucky heroine or intrigued by our continent’s colonial past.}

Eskimo.com has great commentary and biographical information on Suzanne Martel.

Le Corbeau et le Renard

Le Corbeau et le renard

Maître corbeau, sur un arbre perché,
Tenait en son bec un fromage.
Maître renard, par l’odeur alléché,
Lui tint à peu près ce langage :
« Hé ! bonjour Monsieur du Corbeau.
Que vous êtes joli ! que vous me semblez beau !
Sans mentir, si votre ramage
Se rapporte à votre plumage,
Vous êtes le phénix des hôtes de ces bois. »
A ces mots, le corbeau ne se sent pas de joie ;
Et pour montrer sa belle voix,
Il ouvre un large bec, laisse tomber sa proie.
Le renard s’en saisit, et dit : « Mon bon monsieur,
Apprenez que tout flatteur
Vit aux dépens de celui qui l’écoute.
Cette leçon vaut bien un fromage sans doute. »
Le corbeau honteux et confus,
Jura, mais un peu tard , qu’on ne l’y prendrait plus.

Jean de LA FONTAINE
Fables, livre I (1668)

Cliquez ici pour l’écouter:
www.wheatoncollege.edu

A Tale of Two Cities

Charles Dickens

I absolutely loved this book. I was slow to get into it, but that’s to be expected since it is written in a different style than I’m used to and it was an assigned book in English.

My favorite part was at the end when Sydney Carton meets the girl Charles Darnay had befriended. She instantly recognizes that he’s not Darnay, but they give each other comfort until the end, and Carton truly feels happy.

The author’s primary historical source was The French Revolution: A History by Thomas Carlyle: Dickens wrote in his Preface to Tale that “no one can hope to add anything to the philosophy of Mr. CARLYLE’S wonderful book”[11] Carlyle’s view that history cycles through destruction and resurrection was an important influence on the novel, illustrated especially well by the life and death of Sydney Carton.

~ From the Afterword of the Penguin Classics 2003 edition, cited from Wikpedia

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La Cigale et La Fourmi


La Cigale, ayant chanté
Tout l’été,
Se trouva fort dépourvue
Quand la bise fut venue.
Pas un seul petit morceau
De mouche ou de vermisseau.
Elle alla crier famine
Chez la fourmi sa voisine,
La priant de lui prêter
Quelque grain pour subsister
Jusqu’à la saison nouvelle.
« Je vous paierai, lui dit-elle,
Avant l’oût, foi d’animal,
Intérêt et principal. »
La Fourmi n’est pas prêteuse;
C’est là son moindre défaut.
« Que faisiez-vous au temps chaud?
Dit-elle à cette emprunteuse.
–Nuit et jour à tout venant
Je chantais, ne vous déplaise.
–Vous chantiez? j’en suis fort aise.
Eh bien! dansez maintenant. »

Jean de LA FONTAINE
Fables, livre I (1668)

Cliquez ici pour écouter cet poème:
www.wheatoncollege.edu

The Scarlet Pimpernel

Baroness Emmuska Orczy, 1905

Lovely!  Dashing and clever and heart-warming all in one small novel.

“Arguably the best adventure story ever published and certainly the most influential that appeared during the early decades of the twentieth century.”—Gary Hoppenstand

{ Summary adapted from Wikipedia:  During the bloodthirsty, early stages of the French Revolution, Marguerite St. Just, a beautiful Frenchwoman, is the wife of the wealthy English fop Sir Percy Blakeney. Before their marriage, Marguerite had carelessly made comments that had the unintended consequence of sending a French aristocrat and his sons to the guillotine. When Percy found out, he became estranged from his wife, and Marguerite became disillusioned with Percy’s dandyish ways.

Meanwhile, the “League of the Scarlet Pimpernel”, a secret society of English aristocrats, is engaged in rescuing their French counterparts from the executions. Their leader, the mysterious Scarlet Pimpernel, takes his nickname from the small red flower with which he signs his messages. Despite being the talk of London society, only his followers and possibly the Prince of Wales know the Pimpernel’s true identity. Like many others, Marguerite is entranced by the Pimpernel’s daring exploits.

At a ball attended by the Blakeneys, Marguerite is blackmailed by the wily new French envoy to England, Citizen Chauvelin. His agents have stolen a letter incriminating her beloved brother Armand, proving that he is in league with the Pimpernel. Chauvelin offers to trade Armand’s life for her help against the Pimpernel. She passes along information that enables Chauvelin to learn the Pimpernel’s true identity.

Later that night, Marguerite finally tells her husband of the terrible danger threatening her brother and pleads for his assistance. Percy promises to save him. After he leaves for France, Marguerite discovers to her horror that he is the Pimpernel. He had hidden behind the persona of a dull, slow-witted fop in order to deceive the world. He had not told Marguerite because of his worry that she might betray him, as she had others in the past. Desperate to save her love, she pursues Percy to France to try to warn him.

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