Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Ripening Seed by Colette

This short novel is quintessentially Colette. Full of innuendo, implication and subtlety; poetry infused into thoughts, actions and settings. It resonates with salty sea air, the confused emotion of adolesence, and the lingering imagery of suggestion. A big holiday house on the coast of Brittany echoes with the childlike voices of Vinca and Phillipe - friends since birth, but now fast approaching the awkward age where a rift nudges its way between boys and girls - the rift of puberty.

Vinca cannot recognise nor make much sense of her feelings towards Phillipe, and all he recognises is his desire for possession - not quite yet in the physical sense; not so simple as that. Then Phillipe meets an older woman, Mme Dalleray, who takes a shine to him and swiftly manouvers him from the border of childhood and adolesence into full blown young adulthood.

Colette's prose, when describing natural surroundings is evocative and strong on the senses. You can taste the salt in the air. You can see vividly the hues of green and blue in the sea. Her methods of describing the processes of thought and emotion can be somewhat convoluted and coded - although I suspect there is an element of it's magic that is lost in translation. French is a language full of implication - surely some of those coded meanings lost their way on the road to English.

What I loved about this novel was what it left me with: a lasting sense of possibility, a refreshed belief in the romance of eye colour, an endless scope of wonder about the things it didn't tell, and a strong desire to read all the Colette I can get my hot little hands on.

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