The Princess Diarist: My Review

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Today I’m going to review something a little bit different from what I usually do, since it is a non fiction book, and I haven’t reviewed one of those in a very long while. The Princess Diarist was written by Carrie Fisher, who is mostly famous from playing Princess Leia in the first Star Wars trilogy (Episode 4, 5 and 6). This book is a mix of memoir, diary and poetry, which deals with her life while filming Star Wars, and how it changed everything for her. She explains how much this role has influenced her life in many good and bad ways. She also discusses her short affair with Harrison Ford (who plays Han Solo). She talks about the way socitety sees her, and discusses her image, and so much more.

Release: October 2016
Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir
My rating: ★★★★☆

My opinion:

This book was beautiful and unexpected. It is hard to describe everything that I felt while reading it. It was moving and wonderful.

I have to say, six months ago, I had never seen any of the Star Wars movies. My Erasmus friends made me watch them all recently, and I absolutely loved them. Though I had never seen any of the Star Wars movies – or any movie with Carrie Fisher – I had always admired Carrie Fisher. And when I heard about this book, I knew that I had to read it. It is always interesting in my opinion to delve into the lives of famous people, because they are so much more than they appear, so much more than their image. Our society is a mess, honestly, and so is the Hollywood world. The world of fame is a hard one, where a lot of things are fake. And it’s by reading such books that you realise it. Just because people appear to be happy doesn’t mean they actually are.

What I found interesting in this book – and also very revealing of our screwed, sexist society – is that the world always portrays Carrie Fisher as Pricess Leia (if it can be in her very revealing slave outfit that’s even better). But she was so much more. And of course, I knew it, but I didn’t really know what she was, what she thought, etc. And through this book, I was transported through her thoughts. I discovered that she also wrote poetry. I read through her inner turmoils. When she filmed the first Star Wars movie, Carrie Fisher was roughly my age, and it is very interesting to see that we can have the same kind of thoughts and doubts and uncertainties.

The fact that it was a mix between journal and memoir was also very interesting because it included her thoughts while filming, and her thoughts on it about fourty years later. You can see how she evolved, how she grew, and it’s beautiful.

Carrie Fisher is also a very important figure to me because she spoke up about her mental disorder, and it’s something I really admire her for. She truly is an inspiration. She doesn’t really discuss it in this particular volume, but she does in others and I can’t wait to check them out as well. Her writing is raw and true, and she speaks about important things, about what’s wrong with our society. And I will never get enough of that.

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About Non Fiction

Hi readers! I read two non fiction books this month, Regarde les lumières mon amour (Look at all these lights, dear) by Annie Ernaux, and Vous n’aurez pas ma haine (You won’t have my hatred) by Antoine Leiris. I know both those books are French, but if it turns out they have been translated to your language, I definitely recommend them!

In the meantime, I have made a video about non fiction books and more specifically, autobiographies and memoirs. This is about some non fiction books I have read for the past three years, so if you want to watch it, here we go!

The Possession + Simple Passion Review

The Possession (original title: L’occupation) was published by Annie Ernaux in 2002.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Simple Passion (original title: Passion Simple) was published in 1991.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Genre: Non Fiction

I decided to review those two books together because they felt rather similar. Both are non fiction, as all of Ernaux’s books are. And both are about a man, and a passion. Neither man is identified, one is referred to as A. and the other one as W. (for privacy reasons, obviously).

As you may have noticed, I have been reading and reviewing many of Ernaux’s books for the past few month. I studied one of her works in my literature class, and we even got to meet her, which was amazing, so I am trying to read all of her work because I find it extremely inspiring (though those were not my favourites).

Her writing is unique, she shows strength and passion. What struck me in those two works is that to some extent, I understand her. On my own level, that is, but still, it did feel relatable. She shows how she was dedicated, and how she always wanted to know everything about the man she loved. How she always wanted to know everything, etc. And that is perfetly human.

What impresses me too is that she seems afraid of nothing when she writes. Through her works, the reader learns everything about her, she seems to omit nothing, even very personal things like here, whe she talks about her love and sexual relationships. She is straightforward, and that makes her work unique and excellent.

If you have never read any of her works, I wouldn’t recommend those, but if you have and want to read more, then you can definitely check those out! (And unlike others, they have been translated in English, so that’s a good point, right?)

So overall, here are the positive points:
* feminist voice
* straightforward
* awesome writing
* short reads

And the negative poins:
* very personal
* can ocasionally make you feel uneasy

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I’m reading yet another one of her works at the moment (the title is translated as I Remain in Darkness, and it was originally published in 1996). However, as this one is in facts excerpts from her diary, I won’t review it because it somehow feels weird. But I’m enjoying it a lot!

A Room of One’s Own: Short Review

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Genre: Classics, Non Fiction

Rating: ★★★★☆

A Room of One’s Own is probably Virginia Woolf’s masterpiece. It’s an essay in which she explains why a woman should have a room of her own if she is to write. Men usually have a study, but women don’t and when they write it’s in common room, where people keep coming and going. This explains why there are more men writers than women (and the fact that our patriarchal society leaves little place for women). She also illustrates her essay with amazing figures such as Jane Austen who managed to write a lot in less than favourable conditions. It’s a really beautiful work and I strongly advise you to read it! (both that of Jane Austen and that of Virginia Woolf by the way!)

Why did I enjoy this book so much?

It is really clever and feels relatable. Even if the society has evolved (thank god!) some things still ring to me. House duties and stuff like that are things we see women doing, I see it very well with my parents: while my mom is doing tons of things for the house (cleaning, cooking, taking care of my brother…) my dad is usually in his study, telling us to make less noise. And I will never find this normal. So yeah, I see the point of having a room of one’s own. The worst thing is, this study was supposed to be my mom’s… I don’t understand why women always have to sacrifice themselves for men… But that’s not entirely the point of this article.

What I mean is, Virginia Woolf has a point. Even though we do have wonderful writers who didn’t have a room of their own (Jane Austen or the Brontë sisters among them) things would probably have been a lot different if things had been different. And Virginia Woolf is not just pointing this out, she is justifying it (yes I know, that’s the point of an essay, but she does it very cleverly, in a way that just makes sense.)

Overall, this book was really enjoyable. It is clever and interesting, and it’s pleasant to read. I found it a bit hard to follow at the beginning, but the more I read, the harder it was to put the book down… So in the end, I absolutely recommend this book to anyone and everyone!

A Woman’s Story: My Review

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Original title: Une Femme
English title: A Woman’s story
Author: Annie Ernaux
Publication year: 1987
Genre: Non fiction, Autobiography
Rating: ★★★★★

The story:

The author’s mother just died, after several years being sick with Alzheimer’s, and she wants to remember who she was before all this, because the woman who raised her was so much more. She was strong, and beautiful, and Ernaux was rather close to her, as much as they had a complex relationship.

Like many of Ernaux’s other works, this is partly autobiographical, but not entirely since this book is about her mother, more than about her, just like A Man’s Place is about her father. From her childhood to her last sick days, this book retraces the life of a woman who tried her best to be more than her family, and became a small business owner in a small Normandy town. This is the story of Ernaux’s mother.

My opinion:

Yes, it’s another book by Annie Ernaux. If you are not new on my blog, you probably already saw me talking about her. You can find other book reviews of her other works in my ‘Non Fiction’ category… Anyway. She got me again. This book was beautiful and amazing. I loved it, and I couldn’t not give it five stars…

In her books, Ernaux talks about her life and the society she grew up in. She shows that the society needs changing, and she recalls events that made her who she is (and she is one badass old lady, we met her in class, she was amazing!) But here, she is making something different. This book is also moving and very personal. Don’t get me wrong, her books usually are personal (for god’s sakes, she talks about masturbation and abortion) but talking about her mother, and how vulnerable she was in her sickness, that’s something different, and I really admire for that.

To be honest, she is on of my favourite authors these days, and I wish I could write something significant like she did.

What else can I add? Ernaux chooses to talk about her mother, and shows that she knows she could be anyone. Her life is rather typical, and at the same time, she is also strong. And she’s the author’s mother, which doesn’t make her anyone. Once again, in this book Ernaux talks about herself and the society she grew up in, post war rural France, and this time she shows it through her mother’s life. And once again, she did an incredible job!

I love her plain writing style. She is not trying to do something complex, she just writes in a style made so that people can understand and relate, and that is yet another of her strength. Even though this semester is now over, I will never stop reading her books.

Recommended for:

People who like Non Fiction and/or are interested in something out of their comfort zone!

Mémoire de Fille: My Review

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Mémoire de Fille (or “A Girl’s Memory”) is Annie Ernaux’s last book, which was published in early April. Annie Ernaux is a French contemporary author who writes non fiction about her life, and what it’s like to be a woman raised after World War II (she was born in 1940).

This work hasn’t been translated yet.

Genre: Non Fiction

Release date: April 2016

Pages: 160

Rating: ★★★★☆

The story:

Summer of 1958. The narrator is 18, and spending her first summer without her parents as an organizer in a summer camp. There, she will discover love and sex, and what it’s like to be rejected.

The narration is divided between the “I” of the present, and the “she” of the past. As in many of Ernaux’s other books, we get descriptions of pictures along with the story, as the narrator tries to encapture how she was in the past.

The narration also follows the two next years after the summer camp, and show how this completely influenced her life.

My opinion:

Annie Ernaux is brilliant, and I’m never going to say otherwise, though this was not my favourite of her books.

Obviously, the subject is not an easy one to talk about, and maybe that’s what made me uneasy. Or the fact that I can’t relate at all with the narrator. I recognize her from her other books, and yet I can’t connect at all. Maybe that’s because we are not from the same generation, or the same social environment. Yet we like the same things, I’m studying literature and so has she. I have also been an organizer in a summer camp, even if we don’t see things the same way.

I think this book is unique because of the subject it deals with, and because of the writing style, which is crude and can be described as “écriture plate” (this is how the author herself describes her writing style), which can be translated as “plain writing” or even “flat writing”.

Ernaux’s work here in this book in particular is very interesting in a feminist context, in my opinion, because it raises the question of rape and abuse, even if the victim didn’t feel that way at the time. It raises the question of the woman as an object, which is something the author tried to fight, and this points out a very big difference between how she was in the past (and how she describes herself) and how she is now. I think this shows the evolution of her thoughts, and to some extent, the evolution of the society.

This book is important, it is a very personal confession and at the same time, it speaks for many girls, girls from then and from now. I think this is part of the power of non fiction, and what makes those books so unique. They tell a story, and that story is the truth. It has to be recognized as such. And in the case of Mémoire de Fille, it’s part of a bigger plot, of a fight for women’s recognition and freedom.

I recommend it for:

People who like non fiction and feminism. However, if you haven’t read any book by Annie Ernaux, I wouldn’t recommend you start with this one. I would rather recommend The Place which won the Renaudot price, or The Years (though it hasn’t been translated in English – but you can check out my review here!)

L’autre fille: Short Review

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L’autre fille (which can be translated as “The Other Girl”) is a short story written by Annie Ernaux in the form of a letter, addressed to her sister, whom she never knew because she died at 6, before Annie Ernaux was born, and her parents never talked about her. The book was published in 2011 in a collection of letters written by authors, letter which cannot be sent to their recipient. It hasn’t been translated in English (as far as I know) but I hope it will, because it is truly amazing!

Genre: Non Fiction

My rating: ★★★★★

My opinion in a nutshell:

It was an amazing read. You may have noticed it’s not the first time I review a book from this author (and certainly not the last one). She is a  contemporary writer who mostly writes non fiction about her life, and I find her work absolutely amazing. She is a real inspiration to me.

This book was beautiful and moving. She is addressing a sister she never knew, and her parents never talked about her, except one day, she overheard her mother talking about her to a neighbour. This letter dwells on the weigh of the secret, and also on something else: she also overheard her mother say that the other girl was “nice, unlike this one”. Which refers to the author herself.

In this book, she also talks about her relationship with her parents, and how she grew up as an only child. It was really a quick and fascinating read.

I recommend it to:

If you speak French and like non fiction, then you should definitely go for this book! It’s barely 80 pages, and I promise you won’t regret it.