A pink taxi

A pink taxi

July 19, 2011

Reading Duets

I have read parts of novels to my husband. I have read books in informal book clubs and in very formal classroom settings. With my youngest brother and my son, I have read Saint Exupery's Little Prince twice and two decades apart.

But reading "Les Malheurs de Sophie" by the Comtesse de Segur with my daughter is an experience on its own. That experience I had once before, reading the same book with my paternal cousin, who is a year younger than me, and it was the identical book. Indeed, I don't think it would have come to mind to read it as a duet with my daughter, had I not done it three decades ago!

Comtesse de Segur is to French children what Enid Blyton is to English or Louisa May Alcott to Americans. It is classic children's literature, miles apart from the more hip and current literature that is written for children today.

Comtesse de Segur's novels are written like plays, with conversations and dialogue. In this particular case, and because my daughter is a novice at reading she was designated to read the words of the heroine, Sophie, who is a naughty girl, always up to trouble. I read the rest of the book, the other dialogues and the description and narrative.

The author is a Countess of the XIXth century and the circumstances are often "aristocratic", with children playing with dainty toys and getting dressed for occasions and followed by maids and servants. The language is at times pretentious and often obsolete. It is charming nevertheless. Yet, reading it as an adult didn't give me new impressions. I sensed the preciousness of the setting even as a child. I just rediscovered it as an adult.

My cousin and I were probably nine or ten when we read the same book. So we divided the reading equally. I will always remember reading that book on our drive to the Roman ruins of Baalbek, in the Bekaa valley of Lebanon.
Three decades later, I was reading the book, with my daugter, on the train ride to Zermatt. Times and worlds apart, but the same classic!

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