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Cheri and The Last of Cheri by Colette

Cheri and The Last of Cheri (1951)

by Colette

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Cheri (omnibus)

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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
What is it with me and anthologies all of the sudden? At least this is only two books. After the Philip K. Dick anthology I was struggling with feelings of degradation and oppression. I needed something that was the opposite of dystopian American sci-fi, and what better could I find on my shelves than classical French literature by a female author? Plus, it is on my TBR pile challenge list, so extra points!

I must admit my interest was piqued by watching previews for the movie version of Cheri (which I have not yet seen, but want to!) And that preview meant that I could hardly imagine any face but Michelle Pfeifer's for Lea, but what a perfect face to have in mind!

Alright, I really had all of these thoughts that I wanted to assemble about how many wildly glamorous or cutthroat books were written about courtesans before this book wrote about the lives of aging courtesans, and how they might fight to hold onto their power, or not, and how growing up amongst women who had experienced the world in that way would affect a young man. But after sitting with my journal, staring off into space for ages without those thoughts ever coming together, I finally decided to abandon them and move on.

Both books, Cheri and The Last of Cheri were beautifully written and thoroughly entrancing. After reading the first book entirely from the point of view of Lea, it was fascinating in the second to get into Cheri's head. Though I do still wish I could have ever understood what Cheri's wife was thinking.

All in all, a lovely summer read. ( )
  greeniezona | Sep 20, 2014 |
An almost favourite for me but alas I am donating this one to clear my bookshelves. Will likely buy a digital edition (this one is hardback). ( )
  anissaannalise | Jan 1, 2014 |
This book is really blowing my mind. Sad I never had to read it in college. An amazing book! ( )
  mjennings26 | Apr 3, 2013 |
Only partially read it ... set in France ... it was alright.
  ValNewHope | Aug 21, 2011 |
The two short novels in this volume, Cheri and The Last of Cheri, were written in 1920 and 1926, respectively. The title character, "Cheri," is a disarmingly handsome young man whose real name is Frederic Peloux. He is the son and only child of an aging Paris courtesan. Knowing that he needed polishing to function in society, his mother had turned her teenage son over to her friend and fellow courtesan, Lea. Despite an age difference of thirty years, the two became lovers and, as the first novel opens, have lived together for six years.

Cheri takes place in 1913-14. Cheri's mother has arranged a marriage for him with Edmee, the teenage daughter of another of her friends. Cheri takes the inevitable separation from Lea with nonchalance, as Lea approaches it with trepidation. But it is Cheri who eventually has the most difficulty, rejecting his beautiful new bride as childish in both her appearance and intellect. When he finally attempts to give up altogether on his marriage, it is Lea who summons the strength to reject him.

The Last of Cheri is set in 1919. Cheri has survived the First World War largely unchanged, but the war has turned Edmee into a busy volunteer activist, working with a military hospital and other causes. Cheri's entire way of life, that of the lazy, self-indulgent rich, has vanished. He tries to recover it by revisiting his life with Lea, but she, too, has changed.

Cheri's character, in both novels, is utterly unlikable. He is lazy, haughty, uncaring and superficial. But his predicament, at least in the second novel, is typical of many of his generation. He has seen the world change, and he does not like what it has become. Everyone is busy, either making money or serving a cause. "They're such hard workers it's enough to make you loathe the sight of work.... Is it really wrong to be rich, and take life easy?" he complains.

The temperaments of the respective eras are clearly reflected in women's fashions and attitudes. Lea is voluptuous, languorous, courtly and aristocratic.Edmee, in contrast, is slender, active, assertive and democratic. What Cheri doesn't like about his young wife is what symbolizes the times themselves, and what he yearns for in Lea is the past he can never bring back.

Though the first novel of the pair is more celebrated, I didn't particularly appreciate it until I had read the sequel. I would recommend reading them as one continuous work. ( )
3 vote StevenTX | Jun 25, 2011 |
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Coletteprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Arborio Mella, GiuliaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bassan Levi, AnnaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Senhouse, RogerTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thurman, JudithIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Original title
Information from the French Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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First words
"Give it to me, Lea, give me your pearl necklace!
Cheri closed the iron gate of the little garden behind him and sniffed the night air: "Ah! it's nice out here!"
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
This edition contains both Cheri and its sequel, The Last of Cheri (not to be confused with Cheri). Do not add/combine with editions that exclude either one.
Publisher's editors
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Original language

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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374528012, Paperback)

Two volumes of Colette's most beloved works, with a new Introduction by Judith Thurman.

Chéri, together with The Last of Chéri, is a classic story of a love affair between a very young man and a charming older woman. The amour between Fred Peloux, the beautiful gigolo known as Chéri, and the courtesan Léa de Lonval tenderly depicts the devotion that stems from desire, and is an honest account of the most human preoccupations of youth and middle age. With compassionate insight Colette paints a full-length double portrait using an impressionistic style all her own.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:20:13 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

"Cheri, together with The Last of Cheri, is a classic story of a love affair between a very young man and a charming older woman. In describing the relationship between Fred Peloux, the beautiful gigolo known as Cheri, and the courtesan Lea de Lonval, Colette tenderly depicts the devotion that stems from desire and provides an honest account of the most human preoccupations of youth and middle age. With compassionate insight she paints a full-length double portrait, using an impressionistic style all her own. In Cheri, Colette achieved a peak in her earthy, sensuous, and utterly individual art."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

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