Tuesday, July 12, 2011

REVIEW: The Woman with the Bouquet, by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt

The Woman with the Bouquet, by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt. Published 2010 by Europa Editions. Literary fiction. Short stories. Translated from the French by Alison Anderson.

A collection of five short stories by French writer Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt, The Woman with the Bouquet deals in secrets and mysteries and with people searching for meaning in their lives, often by trying to ferret out the secrets of others.

Most of the stories deal with love affairs, and often, a crime. In one, a writer listens to an elderly invalid tell an implausible story about a passionate affair she had with a prince; could it be true? But how? In another, an average-looking woman who finds herself ugly, falls for a blinded photographer, who, in finding her attractive, teaches her to love herself. Another woman kills her husband only to have second thoughts, and yet another waits at a train station every day, titular bouquet in hand. But for whom?

My favorite story though was the only one without a love affair at its center, "Trashy Reading," about a cynical professor who reads only highbrow nonfiction until he finds rapture between the covers of a potboiler detective story. On vacation with his beloved cousin, he steals her grocery-store page-turner and becomes engrossed in the adventures of a certain fetching, fictional lady detective, but the story transmits to him a growing anxiety, leading him to a tragic error of judgement and a terrible outcome for his innocent cousin. I liked the suspense built into this story; Schmitt had me turning the pages as fast as the luckless protagonist turned the pages of his fat thriller.

The rest of the stories are delightful, if somewhat similar to each other; "Getting Better," about a nurse infatuated with her blind patient, was also wonderful. It's a personal-transformation story about someone learning to see herself through someone else's eyes, until that viewpoint becomes her own. All of the stories have about them a sort of wistful romantic quality, and except for the poor leads of "Trashy Reading," there are lots of happy endings, too. The collection is a quick read; a story or two a day was a very doable pace for me and considering there are only five stories, I went through it in under a week. Europa fans and readers of short stories will want to add this one to their piles!

It's book one of fourteen towards my challenge goal of Europa Amante!
This book counts toward the 2011 Europa Challenge.


FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.


bermudaonion said...

This would probably make a good introduction to Europa for me. I've come to appreciate short stories.

contemplatrix said...

thank you for the wonderful review.

when creating my list of Europa books that I might should try, this one of his and 'The Most Beautiful Book in the World' were underlined. Now I am going to be impatient in getting them!

~L (omphaloskepsis)

Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

I was fascinated by all the snippets you gave, especially the guy with the waiting flower.

Zibilee said...

I have never really come across a book of romantic short stories, so this book seems interesting to me. I also like the sound of "Trashy Reading" as well. I might do well to pick up this collection. It sounds very different than my usual fare, and that entices me in itself. Thanks for the clever and thoughtful review, Marie!

bkclubcare said...

Fab review! These stories sound really good. The cover suggests Europa is changing it up a bit from their style in previous years? Does it still have the cool slick feel?

Marie said...

Care, the cover has the same feel. I think it's just a more flamboyant graphic than they usually use :-)

Kathleen said...

It sounds like a good collection of short stories.