Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Bridget Jones of 60s or “The lady in the car in glasses and a gun”

This story by Sebastien Japrisot is considered to be a thriller. But I would call it a "kind" thriller if a thriller can be kind at all. Perhaps, the word “soft” would be more appropriate. It was written in the charming sixties when the aggression in literature and movies, as well as the amount of sugar in food, were not as now.

I would call the main character Bridget Jones of 60s and I wonder what you think of her?

She is the most delicate and vulnerable Blondie whom I met in the literature. Her name is Dany, she is French and an orphan.  She is twenty-six years old on papers; however she feels herself as eleven years old. She is a good looking girl, but her self-esteem is very low. Her movements are unsteady and she wears glasses behind which she hides her vulnerable soul. Dany is not adapted to life. She is not even able to organize her holidays, so she sunbathes at home under a special lamp regardless of the harmfulness of such an invention. Her only advantage is the ability to stay silent. And her only relationship with a man ended badly a few years ago.

One day, her boss, the owner of an advertising agency, asks her to do him a favor - to type a report that he needs the next day for an important meeting in Switzerland. The boss's wife, Anita, is Dany’s friend. Dany agrees to help the boss; she stays at his home typing the report until very late and then goes to sleep. The next morning, the boss tells Dany to take him and his family (Anita + the daughter) to the airport, drive back and leave the car in the garage. Needless to say Dany never drove such a luxurious car (white Thunderbird). After the airport, Dany, instead of driving back to Paris, decides to go to the sea that she has never seen before.

The decision to go to the seacoast was a surprise even to Dany. However, everything that happens afterwards surpasses her expectations... Some people assure her that they saw her the previous day; one woman says that Dany left her coat at her place and on the top it all, Dany is attacked in a toilet at a service station; the attacker breaks her left arm on purpose.  What for? Nobody believes that a woman in white, they saw the previous day, was not Dany and that drives Dany crazy. They say that when you get crazy you think that those around you are crazy...

The book is in the form of a monologue of a gentle creature, and you, together with Dany, walk awkwardly, always stumbling, towards the end. I have to say she got out of trouble with dignity. If you're a fan of puzzles, this book is not for you, the beauty of the story is in the development of the character.

I also liked the story because it is a great insight into the sixties. Dany is in a white suit, a scarf on her head is of the same color as the sea, which she never saw, and she drives a Thunderbird. I find that Bridget Jones of 60s is much more elegant than Bridget Jones of 90s.  Here is my mood board of the story. What do you think of it?

Friday, 15 February 2013

Part 2 "War and Peace" by Leo Tolstoy

Last post was about Sonya from "War and Peace" by Leo Tolstoy

The central images of the novel are two antipodes, Maria Bolkonsky and Natasha Rostova. 

Look how far their destinies stand at the beginning! Natasha is charming, tender and young. She is trained to sing, dance and ride horses. Deprived of parental tyranny, she enjoys a great success in the high society, falls in love and is being loved. In one word Natasha looks like a beautiful white flower that grew up under the warm sun. Princess Mary is actually imprisoned in a provincial estate, she is neither beautiful nor graceful and she does not have skills to charm. If people are interested in her, it is because the old maid is one of the richest Russian brides. Her father is a jealous tyrant who for some reason decided that his daughter should understand geometry. (You, modern women, tell me, how many times the ability to solve problems on parallelograms helped you in life?) The only joy that she has is to write letters to her friends, however even her letters are being checked sometimes by the father. Mary dreams of becoming friends with her sister in law; however the latter dies tragically during a difficult childbirth. Mary renounces the dream of leaving home and becoming a wanderer - she is sorry for her old father and the little orphan, her nephew, little Nicholas.

Later, the lines of two girls begin to converge imperceptibly and gradually. At the ball, the young widower, Mary’s brother, Prince Andrew, at the request of his friend, Pierre Bezukhov, invites a debutante, Natasha Rostova, to dance. Here are few paragraphs that describe the meeting of Natasha and Andrew.

The chapter of the book, which describes Natasha’s first ball, is one of the most popular among women. I love it!  

“Prince Andrew liked dancing, and wishing to escape as quickly as possible from the political and clever talk which everyone addressed to him, wishing also to break up the circle of restraint he disliked, caused by the Emperor's presence, he danced, and had chosen Natasha because Pierre pointed her out to him and because she was the first pretty girl who caught his eye; but scarcely had he embraced that slender supple figure and felt her stirring so close to him and smiling so near him than the wine of her charm rose to his head, and he felt himself revived and rejuvenated when after leaving her he stood breathing deeply and watching the other dancers...

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Women characters in "War and Peace" by Leo Tolstoy

I will just tell that this topic is immense. One can discuss the "overripe” bride, Julie Karagina, and self-seeking Mademoiselle Bourienne, and the unfortunate fate of Sonya.

By the way, in my childhood I was very sympathetic to Sonya: fate cheated her – she was left without parents at an early age, grew up as a dependent, a dowry-less girl. Sonya put tremendous efforts to be worthy of her beloved cousin, Count Nicholas Rostov, and in the end, due to the difficult situation of the family, was forced to cancel the engagement and resign from the prospects to become his wife. She had nowhere to go, so from the time of Nicholas's marriage she lived with his family.  

You may think what you like of it, but this is not fair! One girl has a mother, and a father, and brothers, and sisters, and success in  society, and at least some sort of a dowry, and the title of Countess, and the other one has nothing. Both girls (Natasha and Sonya) were raised by the same family.

Tolstoy describes her fate in the dialog between Natasha and Countess Mary:

"You know," said Natasha, "you have read the Gospels a great deal- there is a passage in them that just fits Sonya."

"What?" asked Countess Mary, surprised.

"To him that hath shall be given, and from him that hath not shall be taken away.' You remember? She is one that hath not; why, I don't know. Perhaps she lacks egotism, I don't know, but from her is taken away, and everything has been taken away. Sometimes I am dreadfully sorry for her. Formerly I very much wanted Nicholas to marry her, but I always had a sort of presentiment that it would not come off. She is a sterile flower, you know- like some strawberry blossoms. Sometimes I am sorry for her, and sometimes I think she doesn't feel it as you or I would."

Though Countess Mary told Natasha that those words in the Gospel must be understood differently, yet looking at Sonya she agreed with Natasha's explanation. It really seemed that Sonya did not feel her position trying, and had grown quite reconciled to her lot as a sterile flower. She seemed to be fond not so much of individuals as of the family as a whole. Like a cat, she had attached herself not to the people but to the home. She waited on the old countess, petted and spoiled the children, was always ready to render small services, for which she had a gift, and all this was unconsciously accepted from her with insufficient gratitude.

Well, all that is very well said. The Rostovs who raised Sonya were generous and warm people. However, they were not able to give her the same amount of love and energy as they did to Natasha. In fact, you cannot blame them; they could not replace the real parents and should not have to do so. They just raised a “cat”! What could have been done? Do you think Sonya's fate would have been better if she grew up in some Institute for Noble Maidens?...

Actually, it is not Sonya that I wanted to discuss, I wanted to talk about the central women images of the novel, two antipodes: Maria Bolkonskaya and Natasha Rostova and I will talk about them in my next post.