cover image Colette


Allan Massie. Penguin Books, $4.95 (160pp) ISBN 978-0-14-008160-2

Novelist Massie (One Night in Winter provides an appropriately stylish and mannered introduction to the life of Colette, who from the turn of the century until her death in 1954 wrote such sensuous, precise, delightful stories about women as the Claudine series, Gigi and La Naissance du Jour. Massie shows that Colette's fiction closely paralleled her intimate life, particularly her relationships with her mother, Sido, with whom she shared a deep love of nature; her first husband Willy, who bullied her and took credit for much of her early work; her lover Missy, a stylish older woman who preferred to dress and be treated like a man; and her daughter, Bel-Gazou, from who she felt surprisingly distant and strained. Part of the Lives of Modern Women series, this title presents an endearing portrait of a woman whose achievement was, Massie argues, ""to insist on her independence as a woman, to claim freedom while remaining feminine, to assert her equality without ever imitating or denying men.'' (September)