Vicious, violent and vindictive, Claudine is a manipulative little hellcat with little regard for anyone and a profound belief in her own inherent virtues.
I love her.
Told under the guise of her journal, from her final year of school in the French countryside (not, as I expected a boarding school; well, it is one, but not for Claudine, who is what Enid Blyton would have called a “day girl” in her school books, Claudine details the tempestuous love lives of the school’s staff and visiting dignitaries, many of whom make advances on Claudine, fifteen and winsome, with such eyes and oft-tossed curls.
This book could not be further from Blyton’s Malory Towers (a firm favourite with me, from ages 8 – 11) and its ilk, especially in the frankness with which it treats with sex, and most especially with lesbian relationships. Claudine’s own inclinations run mostly in that direction, and much of the book is taken up with the open secret of two schoolmistresses living in connubial bliss and the neglected schoolgirl who’s crush on Claudine both annoys and gratifies her. (She pinches and slaps her way too often for my liking, I have to say.)
The book’s brilliant pace lessens somewhat in the second half, especially when Claudine and her classmates take exacting final examinations that will lead some of them to go onto careers as teachers themselves—though Claudine’s wealthy, far too indulgent, rather absent father means she can avoid such a fate, which she describes as among the most dire that could befall her. But it is nevertheless a masterpiece, and has me eager indeed to explore more of Collette’s body of work, most especially the three further volumes dealing with the tempestuous, troublesome, wholly captivating Claudine.
TBR DAY 201: Claudine at School by Colette
GENRE: Classic Fiction, French Fiction
TIME ON THE TBR: 16 years.
PURCHASED FROM: Borders, Singapore.