First published in French in France in 1922. English language translation by Elizabeth Tait and Roger Senhouse.
One of my WorldReads from France
I registered my copy of this book at BookCrossing.com
Where to buy this book:
Buy the book from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the paperback from Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
How I got this book:
Swapped for at a French campsite book exchange
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Jane is Farou's secretary and mistress, as well as the admirer and constant companion of his wife. Colette exposes the subtle torments of living with infidelity, the capacity for suffering and the ruthlessness of women in love. The novel's emotional intensity makes a poignant twist at the end.
Despite being set several decades and a few thousand miles apart, I saw similarities between Kate Chopin's The Awakening and this read, Colette's The Other One. Colette's heroine, Fanny Farou, is trapped within the same societal structure of well-to-do wives being expected to have no other function than that of an accessory to their husbands. In this novella, Fanny's husband, known solely as Farou, is a playwright whose fashionable fame keeps him away from his family for weeks at a time, periods Fanny bemoans as 'we are so dull without him'.
Most shocking, for me, is Fanny's complete acceptance that Farou will be unfaithful to her while he is away. She reassures herself that her position as favourite is secure and as long as Farou's liaisons remain casual and distant, she can live with them. Conflicting emotions arise however when Fanny realises that Farou is also sleeping with his secretary, Jane, a woman who considers herself Fanny's friend although, interestingly, Fanny does not think of Jane in the same light.
Colette cleverly illustrates the relationship between the two women through brief conversations and observations of their behaviour. Jane, assuaging guilt perhaps, is always busy, running errands for Fanny and Farou and attempting to establish an indispensable position in the household. Fanny on the other hand is lethargic and lazy, reminding me a little of Caroline in Andrea Levy's The Long Song. I was intrigued by her indecision, whether she would choose her husband and her companion and how the drama would unfold. The Other One is a small book, both in actual size and in its mostly domestic setting, but powerful emotions are examined and understood through the triangles that Colette establishes.
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Books by Colette / Women's fiction / Books from France