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Tita by Marie Houzelle
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Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
It's not you, it's me.

I know I'm the only one here who didn't fall completely in love with Tita, and for that I'm sorry. Everything about this book is right up my alley (France, the near past, daily life, child narrator, etc.), but I just could not get into this book at all. Maybe it's all of the Real Life stuff happening to me. Maybe it's the ebook format (which, I realized with reading this book, is not the ideal format for me, especially for a lovely book like this). I like the "not much happens" kinds of books - they let you sit in the warm bath that is their terroir and let your fingers get all pruney, learning about and growing to love these people. But I couldn't even keep any characters straight aside from Tita herself. Or where they were, or what the town was like, or what was going on. I just tapped through the pages as best I could and tried to understand the words on the virtual page. I'd love to try this book again, in paper format, of course. For now, this wasn't the right place or time.

Can we still be friends? ( )
  LauraBrook | Feb 28, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
So, what do we have?

We have a chic French roman about a precocious little girl named Tita/Lakme/Euphémie and a few months spent with her in a small village near the Pyrenées. It could be called a fable, if there was a moral at the end. It could be called a coming-of-age story, if there was any character development on the part of Tita. It could be called a story, if it was more than just a series of vignettes about growing up in the south of France in the 1950s.

The good: I may not be Charlie, but I'm pretty sure I am Tita. Or I was. Not that I was reading Proust at seven (I barely got through one book of Proust at thirty-three), but I was about as proto-nihilism as she was when I was about seven too:

I'm not sure I have a heart. There is no "deep down" in me. I wonder if I even exist.

Tita just wants to read and learn and be left alone by meddling teachers. I was that kid. I love Tita. I loved every little thing about her. I love how she looks up phrases in the grammar dictionary to correct her teacher (which is a good review of French grammar for me). I love how she sneaks grown-up books away and reads them secretly (as I did with Stephen King and John Irving novels). I love how she writes plays and stories on the typewriter in her father's office (like I did, although it was my mother's typewriter and I wrote in her closet). I love her little bons mots sprinkled throughout the text. In short, j'adore Tita. Her little adventures and misadventures and thoughts and schemes. Everything Tita. Je t'adore.

The bad: But nothing happens. Nothing happens and then the book ends. The last forty pages are a glossary of French terms and an interview with Houzelle. I was left with a "Well, that's sudden" feeling that still hasn't gone away by the next morning. Okay, so we build up this character, her back story, some proto-conflict (yes, I'm using proto again. It's the prefix I'm stuck on today) regarding her parents' financial situation and the fallout from the school choice, and then final stop end, here's some French (which after many years of French immersion, I didn't need anyway). I could compile a list as long as the book with unresolved issues:

  1. Why have the father be divorced once and with children from the first marriage when they play so little a role in the story, especially the brothers Etienne and Maxime?

  2. Tita has three names, her birth name Lakme, her baptismal name Euphémie, and what everyone calls her, Tita. Was that really necessary?

  3. The timeline with Tita's birth and her father's divorce and her parents' marriage is never one hundred percent resolved. Or that issue with what Tita's last name was when she was born.

  4. Her father's business is failing. Maybe that should be addressed?

  5. There seems to be a class difference between Tita's mother and Tita's father. Not a huge one, but it's never really developed.

I'll stop, but I could keep going. Why put such a clever character into a muddle of a story? Tita, I love you, jump free of my kobo and put yourself in a story where you will thrive.

Also, every time I read books about French parenting, I'm always struck by how utilitarian and cold it is. It seems like there are rules for everything and the parents seem so haughty. Sometimes I think all Tita needed was a hug. I'd give her a hug if I were her mother.

I was going to comment on the translation, and even wrote little notes about the translation in my kobo, only to get to the end and realize that the book was written in English originally. So oops on my part. It's a bit random whether French used in the text is immediately translated or not. Sometimes it is, other times non-French speakers have to look it up in the Appendix. I like consistency. I would have rather an all-or-nothing in terms of translated words in the text.

If it weren't for Tita, I think I would have despised this book. But my love for Tita knows no bounds. Oh Tita. I could feel the Mediterranean sun on my cheeks as I read about you. It warmed me to the very core.

Tita by Marie Houzelle went on sale September 15, 2014.

I received a copy free in a librarything giveway in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  reluctantm | Feb 26, 2015 |
This is a true delight: a French writer who has written in English (and thankfully not Latin!). Tita is a novel about a seven year old girl in a small Catholic town in the south of France set during the 1950s. It opens up to us a very different take on what France is like. The language is delightful, right down to Tita's glossary from her point of view! Tita is a courageous heroine who charms us in surprising ways. ( )
  LizzieHG | Jan 13, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
'Tita,' by Marie Houzelle, was a very enjoyable book. I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of the main character, Tita, who is wise beyond her young age. With Tita as the narrator of the book, we follow a period in her life growing up during the 1950's and learn her perspective of her parents, the French country-side, and growing up.

Part a coming-of-age tale, and part a portrait of rural French life during the 1950's, 'Tita' is charming and engrossing. I enjoyed Tita's take on her life, and her willingness to learn and grow. My only issue was I wished it was longer!

I am reviewing this book for the Early Reviewers program. ( )
  loewen | Jan 11, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Tita is the story of a bright little girl growing up in the Southern Part of France in the late 1950s in an upper-class family. She reads everything she can get her hand on and loves to look up meaning and origin of words in dictionaries. Sometimes she even catches her teacher making mistakes. But not everything is ideal. Her father's business is failing and according to tradition she soon will have to go to a strict boarding school to continue her education.

Marie Houzelle manages to give Tita a voice that is totally believable and kept me turning the pages trying to figure out what would happen next. Having had French in school I was familiar with many of the French terms thrown in, but for those less fluent there is an extensive glossary at the end of the book.

A charming story that I can wholeheartedly recommend. ( )
  pratchettfan | Dec 12, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
"Tita" by Marie Houzelle -- book review of a remarkable novel set in the south of France
"Houzelle’s singular voice and deadpan prose left me utterly wowed. "
"The complexity and grace that has gone into Tita’s creation gives us a protagonist who goes from being a saint-loving, misdiagnosed-ADHD phobic to a plucky, poignant individual who I can imagine pouring a can of highly flammables on the ’68 scene when she’s 17."
"A remarkable novel from a seriously talented voice in literature"
In Houzelle's first novel, Tita is a seven-year-old girl growing up in the south of France in the 1950s whose life seems to be defined by obstacles: the many foods that disgust her, the school that fails to challenge her, and parents who struggle to understand her. Tita is precocious and clever, but in some ways painfully inept. She is thoughtful but frail—obsessed with rules and rituals, and determined to understand the nuances. Through Houzelle's sharp, straightforward prose (which captures Tita's perspective), the story of how Tita grows takes center stage. She learns the alternatives to those things that have held her back or held her down. She challenges social strictures that she feels are meaningless. She battles her mother to get what she wants, and when sometimes that turns out to be the wrong decision, she acknowledges it. At the novel's end, Tita is still a little girl, but her brilliance, potential, and unusual way of looking at the world will have won readers over.
added by SummertimeP | editPublishers Weekly (Jul 7, 2014)
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I’d like to be a nun.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Tita is seven, and she wonders what wrong with her. She has perfect parents. She puts on plays with her friends, spies on adults, challenges her teacher, and even manages to read forbidden books. She should be happy. But she dreams of a world without meals, and keeps worrying about her mother's whereabouts, spoiling her own life for no reason at all. Tita wants to be good - but how?
As her small town vibrates to age-old rituals on the verge of slipping away, Tita finds refuge - and a liberation- in books.
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