cover image Madame Eiffel: The Love Story of the Eiffel Tower

Madame Eiffel: The Love Story of the Eiffel Tower

Alice Brière-Haquet, illus. by Csil. Little Gestalten (Prestel, dist.), $19.95 (32p) ISBN 978-3-89955-755-8

Brière-Haquet and Csil reimagine the Eiffel Tower as an elaborate cure for engineer Gustave Eiffel’s wife, Cathy, who is mortally ill. Frail and bedridden, she proposes to her husband, “You could build us a railway that takes us up to the clouds in a blink.” And it works: he designs and builds the tower, carries her to the top, and the two live “happily and well for a long time.” Csil’s intricate, spidery drawings are the work’s great charm. Executed in a tracery of needle-thin black lines with a blush of sunset pink for color, each spread has its own complex eccentricity. Monsieur and Madame Eiffel have egg-shaped heads and tiny bodies, making their affectionate caresses all the funnier. The clunky verselike text and its ill-at-ease translation disappoint, though: “But Cathy grows skinny and pale/ and one day she feels it’s the end of her tale.” Brière-Haquet cheerfully supplies a fictional ending to the Eiffels’ married life; in fact, his wife’s given name wasn’t Cathy, but Marie, and she died of her illness. Ages 3–up. (Nov.)