Dr Seuss: How The Grinch Stole Christmas | 60th birthday

It’s that time of year again, and this one is a special one, because one of the world’s best-loved children’s Christmas stories is turning 60, and it’s had a special makeover to celebrate.


This beautiful new edition of Dr Seuss’s Christmas masterpiece ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ is the perfect addition to any Christmas list. The illustrations and charming storyline remain the same, but are joined by a welcoming introduction by Charles D Cohen which explores the origins of the story, and the true meaning of Christmas – this is all contained within a beautiful clothbound cover and presentation box.

I absolutely love the Grinch, I include the 1960s animated short and even the Jim Carey feature in this, but of course nothing is a patch on the original. It is one of Dr Seuss’s best known stories, and with good reason. It took just a month to write, and two months to illustrate, but no other book so perfectly explores and presents the true meaning of Christmas.

You all know the story, and I’m sure I don’t need to bore you all with an explanation of the excellent storyline, writing style, or even illustrations – that said, Dr Seuss’s illustrations never cease to amaze me, in with this book in particular I love the use of red and black, making the pages seem at one dark and festive.

The story itself remains the same, a true Christmas classic, but the really nice thing about this new edition is the introduction.

It is said, and I cannot help but agree, that most people think of Dr Seuss as the Cat in the Hat – but remember that even the happiest people have their bad days. Dr Seuss, whose real name, for those of you who didn’t know, was Theodor Geisel, actually based the grisly, green-eyed character that stalks the page of this Christmas caper on none other than himself.

As his stepdaughter Lark Dimond-Cates once said: “I always thought that the Cat… was Ted on his good days, and the Grinch was Ted on his bad days.”

Seuss created the Grinch as a character at the tender aged of 53, on the day after Christmas day 1956, as an expression of his own concerns about the festive season. It’s an alarming thought, that someone who wrote such wonderful, magical children’s book could struggle with the spirit of Christmas, but Seuss did, and he used the Grinch to help work out exactly how he felt about the holiday.

So the intro says, Seuss was looking into the mirror, brushing his teeth on that Boxing Day morning, when he saw the Grinch peeking back at him.


“Something had gone wrong with Christmas, I realised, or more likely with me. So I wrote the story about my sour friend, the Grinch, to see if I could rediscover something about Christmas that obviously I’d lost.”

This is, in fact, alluded to a little in the text “For fifty-three years I’ve put up with it now! I must stop this Christmas from coming! … But HOW?”

The introduction goes on to explain a little more about the books notoriety. It was first published back in 1957, an interesting year for Christmas which saw the launch of three separate which encouraged readers to rethink the true meaning of Christmas. These included: The Year without Santa Claus, The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. It became a year when people were forced to think about what Christmas really meant to them – and people loved it! All the books received prominent praise, and went on to become films in their own right, but none was quite as special as the Grinch, who became a Christmas staple, paling only in comparison to Santa Claus, and Rudolph.

However, unpleasant the Grinch character may seem at first, the book reminds us of an important fact – Christmas is about more than just presents. There is a deeper meaning to the book, though, expressed through the image of the Grinch, and the Whos coming together, that no one should be alone on Christmas, and that anyone can be part of a community.

The poor Grinch has never had a friend, or a family, and certainly never been part of a community, and cannot understand the Whos. In particular, he hates the Who-Christmas-Sing, a time when the Whos “would stand close together, with Christmas bells ringing. They’d stand hand-in-hand. And the Whos would start singing.”

Through the magic of Christmas, and seeing the Whos resilience even in the absence of presents, the Grinch learns to enjoy the true meaning of Christmas and to spend time and share a meal with the Whos, and as such to become a part of their community.

It is not a religious story, Seuss made sure of this. Like many of his books, Seuss wanted to ensure that the Grinch would teach children that people who look different, and come from different places can still come together as friends. A message we could all do with remembering at such troubling times.

As the intro concludes, most readers can notice a little something of the Grinch in themselves, I know I definitely can. I love Christmas, but I have had my troubles with it in the past, fed up with the endless money, presents and complete and utter faff that comes with it. At some point, though, I realised how I was only depriving myself by feeling this way, and by doing away with my own faff, I learned to enjoy Christmas for what it is, a time to be thankful, to spend time with friends and family and celebrate life, a time for quiet, reflection – and now I love it again.

The Grinch is an important holiday figure, and the Grinch, as a story, is one I can never get through the Christmas season without reading. I didn’t realise, until I saw this new edition, that the Grinch was approaching its 60th year in publication. I had already decided to start a little ‘tradition’ with my youngest nephew, of buying him a Dr Seuss book for his birthday and Christmas each year, this year’s Christmas present was to be the Grinch, and I am delighted that there is a special, beautiful new edition that I can share with him.


New year, new update!

Hi boys and girls!

I hope you all had an amazing Christmas and New Year with your loved ones.

I know, I know, I suck! I’ve been really rubbish the last month and haven’t posted a single update!

You see…

The run up to Christmas was insanely busy, what with 12-week reviews, gift shopping, chest infections, and preparing for a long-haul flight (which, it turns out, makes me rather anxious), and I very much needed to take a little time off – I do hope you will forgive my radio silence!

Excuses, excuses.

In other news, we’ve just come back from an amazing few weeks in Hong Kong!

In my time away I drank Champagne in the highest bar in the world, got purposely elbowed in the face by a Chinese woman, fell over – twice, saw a real life giant panda, and ate more strange things than I would care to admit (sea cucumber is definitely an acquired taste).

But you didn’t come here to read about my festive antics, did you?

You’ll be pleased to hear that in my absence I surmounted quite the pile of books to review, so I’m going to have a very busy start to the new year. It’s a good thing I am feeling so wonderfully refreshed 🙂

I also returned to some very welcome packages from my good friends Prudence and the Crow!

November’s box


December’s box


While I’m over the moon with both my books, I’ll be placing November’s choice on the bookshelf for now, purely because I reviewed all the Chronicles of Narnia not that long ago, but I can’t wait to get started on December’s choice:

Redwall – Brian Jacques

It is the start of the Summer of the Late Rose. Redwall Abbey, the peaceful home of a community of mice slumbers in the warmth of a summer afternoon. The mice are busy preparing for the great Jubilee Feast. 

Bust not for long. Cluny is coming! The evil one-eyed rat warlord is advancing with his battle-scarred mob. And Cluny wants Redwall. 

Needless to say, I am thrilled with the prospect of another vintage children’s book to sink my teeth into – especially as it comes with a personal recommendation from Prudence.


Here’s wishing you all the Happiest of New Years 🙂

There will be many, many reviews to follow.

The Mouse and His Child – Russell Hoban

“A clockwork heart can’t replace the real thing.” ― Dru Pagliassotti

I received this book in my August Prudence and the Crow box, the book selection was a fantastic bit of luck, as I’d been really craving classic children’s literature – between you and me I’m becoming more and more convinced that Prudence and the Crow are able to read my mind. From the a quick look at the front cover and the name alone – I know, I know, never judge a book by its cover, right? – I was expecting story about a mouse that fell in love with a windup mouseling. I’m sure you get the idea, something similar to Pinocchio, but English – so, perhaps with afternoons spent playing in dolls’ houses pretending to drink tea. I could not have been more mistaken, but, far from being disappointed, I absolutely loved it.

The Mouse and His Child – Russell Hoban

“Where are we?” the mouse child asked his father. His voice was tiny in the stillness of the night.
“I don’t know” the father replied.
What are we, Papa?”
“I don’t know. We must wait and see.” 

the-mouse-and-his-childOn a cold winter’s evening a tin father and son emerge from a box to stand on display in a toy shop window. Outside the cold wind blows and tramp passes by, momentarily taken by the sight of the toys. Brand new, and confused, the mouse and his child struggle to comprehend what it means to be windup toys and the thought of the life that lays before them makes the poor child cry.

It is not long before they are swept away, bought by a family, destined for a life spent dancing beneath the Christmas tree – the life of a windup. It is a simple life, spent quietly fulfilling their duties; until they break the ancient clock-work rules and must face the consequences.

Discarded in the snow the mouse and his child begin a wholly different journey than the one written for them. They are rescued, repaired by a tramp, and chased by a terrible force that would see all windup toys turned to slaves. Through all that they endure the mouse and the child wish for only one thing, a place to call their own – a magnificent house, a mother, and a sister.

I wish I could say that I had read this book as a child. This is definitely a tale that will take on an entirely different meaning, and gain resonance as a person grows older. I spoke about the book with a colleague when I had just started reading it, and he said that he loved it as a child, but upon revisiting it as an adult realised, quite simply ‘wow, this is really deep stuff’. I could try and say it more eloquently, but that is the bare bones of it. The Mouse and his Child is an incredible tale of quest and determination for children, and when viewed with an adult’s mind it is absolutely brimming with philosophical thoughts, lessons, analogies, and big, gaping questions about life.

“All roads, whether long or short, are hard,” said Frog. “Come, you have begun your journey, and all else necessarily follows from that act. Be of good cheer. The sun is bright. The sky is blue. The world lies before you.” 

The humanity of Hoban’s characters is truly incredible. The authors has taken windup toys and elevated them to the next level. Each toy, however minor their role in the tale, has its own unique drive and personality: the once-proud elephant, now plushless, and with the missing ear and eye patch; the tin seal, long separated from her colourful ball; the sweet child, forever asking questions, always looking, and understanding; and even the donkey – the poor, poor, donkey – who once dared to complain. These creatures may be made of clockwork, but they are no less human than you and I. They are exhausted, frightened, frustrated, despondent, sentimental, joyous, hopeful, and forever working towards their goals. Life throws its hurdles, and each one is tackled, even if it does take a short lifetime. Can you imagine what it would be like to spends years at the bottom on a pond? Through all this, they grow stronger, never losing sight of their aims, growing, learning and interacting with all whom cross their path. Just one more step, they will get there in the end.

The mouse and his child, who had learned so much and had prevailed against such overwhelming odds, never could be persuaded to teach a success course… The whole secret of the thing, they insisted, was simply and at all costs to move steadily ahead, and that, they said, could not be taught. 

The Mouse and his Child is a truly phenomenal children’s book, which has just as much, if not more, to offer to adult readers. I feel really thankful to have discovered this book, and look forward, truthfully, to a time when I can share it with the children in my life.

The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold

“If you have a sister and she dies, do you stop saying you have one? Or are you always a sister, even when the other half of the equation is gone?” ― Jodi Picoult

the-lovely-bones-9781447275206I had wanted to read this book for so long. I would often find myself seeking it out in bookshops just after it was released, picking it up and stroking the cover, reading the blurb on the back for the umpteenth time

My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6th, 1973. My murderer was a man from our neighbourhood. My mother liked his border flowers, and my father talked to him once about fertilizer.

But I never bought it.

I have obsessed over the idea of this book for the best part of a decade – a story told by the spirit of a murdered girl, however macabre it may sound, is right up my street. I am fascinated by anything to do with the paranormal and spirituality. I wanted to get to know Susie Salmon better; I wanted to read her story.

So when my good friend Kate over at The Little Crocodile bought me the book last month for my birthday I was over the moon!

The Lovely Bones is a haunting tale told by the spirit of murdered school girl Susie Salmon. Looking down from her heaven Susie observes her family and friends. She watches the devastation and destruction that her murder causes, rippling through her small town, and shaking the community to its very core. Susie watches her family as they struggle to comprehend life without her, leaving the porch light on well after they know she is no longer coming home. As time goes on, and Susie watches her siblings and friends grow older, she learns that she must let go of her anger to allow those left behind to heal.

This book is not for the faint hearted. I become much more emotionally invested in a book than I ever have in film or TV and this one really got to me. I’ve had unsettlingly emotional episodes with books in the past; I grieved for Sirius black after reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Anybody out there? by Marian Keyes threw me into the depths of despair for a good few weeks. This one was different though. Sebold’s writing gave me nightmares, and at some points I doubted whether I would actually be able to finish it.

That is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the book – I did. It was everything I hoped for, and a little more. The effect that this book had on me speaks of the power of Sebold’s words – I was upset by Susie’s death, horrified by the circumstances and devastated by the effect that this had on the family. But more than this, I was distressed by Susie’s position in all this, as an outsider looking in on the effect that her death had in her community. She was intercepted by her neighbour on the way home from school that cold winter’s day in 1973; she never made it home. Susie’s story is incredibly moving in that it details her spirit’s journey, still attempting to find her way home after so many years; she may be in heaven, but her true place will always be on Earth.


Sebold has taken a story about a murdered school girl and completely turned it around, presenting an intricate analysis into grief and resolution. Fans of crime fiction may be put off to know that there is no secret as to who the killer is, you know him from the start, and if you begin the book hoping for a revelation in which Susie’s killer is brought to justice you will likely feel disappointed. But approach Sebold’s work with an open mind and you will be pleasantly surprised.

The Lovely Bones is beautifully written and hauntingly captivating and will leave you quietly contemplating Susie long after you have finished her story. It is difficult to say who I would recommend the book to – so I will simply say that if you feel intrigued by my review, then give it a go.

Has anyone else read this book? I’d love to hear from you to find out what you thought. Drop me a line or comment below.

“Reflect upon your present blessings ― of which every man has many ― not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” ― Charles Dickens

Christmas is a time for reflection

As we come to the close of 2014 I am faced with the realisation that I have let a few things slip over the last 12 months. I started the year with so many good intentions as to books I would read and things I would get done, and although I have accomplished a lot this year, there are certain books I have really wanted to read which I have let pile up and gather dust. And so, as part of my end of year reflections I am going to give you a short review of three books I read this month, after realising I had put off the task, if indeed you can call it a task, for far too long.

The Thurber Carnival – James Thurber 


The first book is one my beloved bought me for Valentine’s Day this year; I know a lot of thought went into choosing a book he knew I would enjoy. So this month I spent a few days curled up in bed with Mr Thurber and indulged myself in his musings, and what an experience it was.

As Thurber writes in the preface:

‘This book contains a selection of the stories and drawings the old boy did in his prime, a period which extended roughly from the year Lindbergh flew the Atlantic to the day coffee was rationed.  He presents this to his readers with his sincere best wishes for a happy new world.’

If you have yet to read any James Thurber I cannot recommend him highly enough. The Thurber Carnival is an eclectic mix of short stories, essays, biographical snapshots, poems and anecdotes which give you a little bit of everything. As a first time reader you may find yourself laughing out loud at his work, while at the same time suffering slight confusion as to what exactly is happening – in this way Thurber’s work is full of unexpected and not entirely understandable surprises.

The book was put together by the author himself, adapted from some of his most colourful work, almost all of which was originally published in the New Yorker. Some of the better known parts of the book include ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ which was recently adapted on the big screen, but even the lesser known anecdotal sentences speak volumes about Thurber’s work. Each piece within the volume, down to the smallest of cartoons is worthy of publication.catslikemice

Here is one of my favourite snippets from ‘The Owl in the Attic’, in which the author offers advice in the form of questions and answers from pet owners:

Q. We have cats the way most people have mice. – Mrs C.L Footloose.

A. I see you have. I can’t tell from your communication, however, whether you wish advice or are just boasting.

I also really enjoyed Thurber’s selection of fables which carry somewhat unusual morals. I think my favourite, and it was a difficult choice as they are all hilarious, was ‘The Very Proper Gander’, in which a goose who is very fond of singing to his family was accused of being a dangerous bird capable of spreading propaganda by a nosey hen and subsequently forced to flee his home. This tale carried with it the insightful moral ‘Anybody who you or your wife thinks is going to overthrow the government by violence must be driven out of the country’.

I spent many an afternoon doubled up laughing at Thurber’s anecdotes from ‘My Life and hard times’ including such gems as ‘The Night the Bed Fell’ and ‘The Night the Ghost got in’, in fact I spent many an afternoon laughing at just about everything.

The Thurber Carnival serves as a fantastic amalgamation of the very best of Thurber’s insights and observations, effortlessly presented and bound with a mix of effortless humour and the correct balance of subtle and obvious eccentricities. While highlighting Thurber’s much deserved reputation as a truly great humourist and storyteller, the book simultaneously unleashes upon the reader his second role as a truly profound thinker, philosopher and anthropologist. It has been a while since a book has made me laugh, and think, in quite this way. This collection has something for everyone, if the writing is a little out of your reach; you’re bound to appreciate the illustrations at the very least.

The Snow Goose – Paul Gallico


The second book was recommended by a man whose presence in my life was all too short, and this month sadly marks one year since he passed. Michael was a truly inspirational man, and I have many fond memories of the time I got to know him. He recommended that I read The Snow Goose on one of the last occasions I ever saw him and I am somewhat ashamed to say the book has been sitting by my bed ever since.

Set against the backdrop of World War II, The Snow Goose documents the touching, if somewhat unusual, friendship between Philip Rhayader, a disfigured artist living a solitary life a lighthouse in the Essex marshlands and a young local girl named Fritha. The unlikely friendship is born out of Fritha’s discovery of a snow goose, miles from its Canadian homeland and wounded by a gunshot.

The tale of the friendship between this unlikely pair is truly moving, and reminded me, in some respects, of the story of the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Rhayader is a beautiful soul who is so misunderstood given his outward appearance, but whose kindness emerges in his care those close to him. The story is so captivating that you will be forgiven for shedding a tear, as I did, with the outcome of the story.

Rhayader assists in the British retreat from Dunkirk, and succeeds in rescuing hundreds of men. The snow goose accompanies him constantly, flying circles around the fishing boat, a shining beacon of hope in the grey skies above the stormy channel, becoming somewhat of an omen to the men in Dunkirk.

When the snow goose returns briefly to the lighthouse, alone, Fritha sees it as vision of Rhayder’s soul coming to bid her farewell. It is at this point that the girl comes to realise that she loved her friend, and he her. When, shortly after, the lighthouse is lost to a German bomber plane, the only thing which remains of Rhayader’s artwork is a painting of Fritha as a young child, with the injured snow goose in her arms. This ending of this short piece is remarkably powerful, and the image of the painting, the one remaining piece of a life now lost, is something which will remain with me for a long time.

The Snow Goose is a simple, eloquently written, yet powerful tale of the power of friendship and love, which is in equal parts beautiful and devastating.

The Young Visters – Daisy Ashford.


The final book I have chosen is very dear to me. I was first given this book to read by my grandmother as a child, under the knowledge that it was written by a little girl. Unfortunately the knowledge of the book fell somewhere into the back of my mind, and when my grandparent passed away I realised I had forgotten the title. With no one to ask the book was lost to me somewhere within the household clutter that results from many lives well lived. I recently decided to try and find the name of the book and was surprised to find how simple the task was, such are the wonders of the internet. I treated myself to a lovely little second had edition and it seemed natural that this would make it into my Christmas list.

The Young Visiters was written by Daisy Ashford at the remarkable age of nine, and was discovered many years later in a notebook hidden amongst her mother’s possessions. The book was published in a completely unedited state, save for having the single block of text which makes up each chapter divided into paragraphs for readability. Needless to say, the book is truly extraordinary, as J M Barrie writes in his preface to the work: ‘It seems to me to be a remarkable work for a child, remarkable even in its length and completeness, for when children turn author they usually stop in the middle, like the kitten when it jumps.’

There is so much I could say about The Young Visiters; such is my love for this charmingly childish tale. Since rediscovering the work I have recommended it to so many, and have bought it as a Christmas gift for others. It makes a beautiful addition to any collection, and reading it is an experience I can guarantee you will enjoy.

I remember enjoying the book when I first read it, but reading it as an adult has afforded me a whole new appreciation of Ashford’s writing. When I was first given the book by my grandmother she interrogated me almost immediately, asking me if I had noticed anything funny about the book. I remember referring to the sentence ‘Then he sat down and eat the egg which Ethel had so kindly laid for him.’ I will confess does still afford a little chuckle from me, but I noticed so much more about the little girl’s writing this time round, the main thing being her fantastic perception of people and society. J M Barrie writes in his preface that had the author paid a visit to your house ‘I am sure that when you left your bedroom this child stole in, examined everything and summed you up.’ She has a certain way with words, expressing a character with all of the subtlety of a child: ‘My own room is next the bath room said Bernard it is decerated dark red as I have somber tastes.’ Can you think of any better way to sum up ones personality?

There is something so refreshing in reading something written by one so young, who has such a great understanding of life. The heroine in the story Ethel is forever powdering her face with ‘ruge’ for fear that she appears too pale and sickly, an ongoing theme in novels of the time, as stated most eloquently by Ethel : ‘I am very pale owing to the drains in this house’. It is an ongoing these in early 20th century literature that women are almost like china dolls, and liable to break at any moment, which one can pick up quite easily from reading a Jane Austen novel. God forbid a girl gets caught in the rain she is likely to have to stay in bed for the whole summer. Perhaps my favourite snippet from the book in this respect is when Ethel is so overcome with happiness that she faints. The gentleman she is with, Bernard, is very concerned that she is gravely ill, but the matter is soon resolved: ‘Oh no I am very strong said Ethel I fainted from joy she added to explain matters.’

I could delve further into the story, but really, I don’t feel there is any need. I don’t feel anyone is better equipped to tell the tale than the ‘smug’ – as J M Barrie refers to her – little nine-year-old who wrote it.  I would highly recommend this book to just about anyone who enjoys reading. Buy it, read it, and pass it on, you won’t regret it.

“Hope Smiles from the threshold of the year to come, Whispering ‘it will be happier’…” ― Alfred Tennyson

With Christmas out of the way for another 12 months I am very much looking forward to getting things back on track.

I was very optimistic before I broke up for work for the festive season that I would get a lot of work done during my time off. I had a pile of books waiting to be reviewed which desperately needs cutting down to size a little bit [I have a terrible habit of getting far too far ahead of myself with reading, and not quite keeping up to speed with reviewing]. Unfortunately my optimism was ill-founded, and alas my workload is as big as ever.

The post Christmas lull should be a nice time to get some work done, so here’s to the start of a happy, constructive and prosperous 2014!

I have a lot planned for the next few months, aside from a stack of books I hope to work my way through, I will be assisting with writing a book for the publishing house where I work, which I’m sure you’ll agree is incredibly exciting, if a little daunting. Before Christmas I also was asked to reviewed a book for the magazine Global – the International Briefing, the next issue of which should go to press within a couple of weeks, so be sure to watch this space.

“And when at last you find someone to whom you feel you can pour out your soul, you stop in shock at the words you utter— they are so rusty, so ugly, so meaningless and feeble from being kept in the small cramped dark inside you so long.” ― Sylvia Plath

There are two sides to every story

The Confidant – Hélène Grémillon

Confidant final cover.448x688

Another truly beautiful piece of literature to add to my read list. ‘The Confidant’ was given to me by my partners godparents as a Christmas present last year, and sadly ended up hidden in the bottom of a box until a few weeks ago, one of the downsides of having moved house and never fully unpacked. Having just read and thoroughly enjoyed ‘The Elegance of the Hedgehog’ I was excited at the prospect of getting started on another piece of French literature, and potentially giving myself a nice topic of conversation for our next family dinner.

‘The truth lies hidden in the past’ is such a fitting tagline for this novel. Grémillon draws the reader into the depths of a long hidden secret, of longing, forbidden love, betrayal, and revenge. The novel achieves an almost perfect blend of historical narration, thrilling suspense and harsh reality, the result of which is truly stunning.

It is 1975, and in her apartment in Paris, Camille receives an anonymous letter, a letter narrating the lives individuals seemingly unrelated to Camille, surely the letter has been sent to her by mistake? The anonymous letters continue to fill the post box of Camille’s Paris flat, and a long hidden secret begins to unravel before her very eyes. As the story unfolds Camille becomes desperate to discover the source of the letters, before finally succumbing to the realisation that it is her own story which is being told. The story of pre war France, a young boy in love, a young girl eager to please, and a rich and lonely madame is inextricably linked to Camille’s unlikely friendship with the concierge of her apartment building, the recent death of her mother, and the future of her unborn child.

What struck me about this book was the profound effect it has on my emotions. As the secret unraveled I found myself taken on an emotional journey of empathy and hatred of Annie, and simultaneous hatred, and empathy for Madame M. There are two sides to every story, and Grémillon highlights this so perfectly, by the end of the novel I felt as though neither character did anything wrong. Their actions were inevitable, driven by emotion and instinct.

The story presents a fierce, raw examination of women, coupling motherhood and feminism with love, passion, and desire. In this respect there was one theme in particular that struck a chord with me, and that is Grémillon’s unrestrained examination of infertility.

Madame M’s yearning to have a baby is spoken of at length throughout the novel, and I find the way in which her desires are portrayed incredibly moving. The world around M seems almost super fertile, numerous women in Paris are falling pregnant, and the newspapers are awash with stories crying for the need for more babies:

‘Have more Children! Have more children, France must make up for her losses in 1914’.

M is described as going to all lengths to sure her infertility, even physically injuring herself in a desperate hope that someday she will discover a solution. She describes her constant consumption of an aphrodisiac made from wine and spices,  resorting even to bathing in the concoction to the point where:

‘Over time my skin acquired a spicy scent that disgusted me’

Gremillon delves further into the realms of M’s depression, describing at length her dismay at her sudden transformation into ‘the infertile woman’. What I think is the most striking description of this comes during a dinner with her Husbands family, his grandmother makes an announcement that someone at the table is with child, and the guests begin to guess who it could be:

‘Every name except Granny’s and my own. Because it was no longer possible for her, and for me, it never had been.’

This seems to be time when M finally succumbs to the fact that she will forever be the elephant in the room, the person whom everyone must be careful around, who is looked upon with pity. I found reading the following passage quite emotional, my heart goes out to anyone, who is ever made to feel this way:

‘Suddenly her eyes met mine and she looked away at once, her broad radiant smile frozen on her face, and a moment of awkwardness spread round the table. Silence. The game had yielded to the weight of reality, my reality. At that moment I realised I had become ‘the infertile woman’ in the family, the one whose presence absolutely precluded any displays of joy , the one who was so unfortunate that the happiness of others could prove fatal. My shame was confirmed

M’s story touched on something I feel is shied away from far too often: the unspoken ‘shame’ that is placed upon infertile woman. I found myself asking why? Why is being infertile considered something to be embarrassed about? The following quote was taken from a comment on a feministphilosophers blog post ‘On Becoming Infertile – Part 1’:

‘I feel like I’ve often been treated like a faulty baby machine rather than a person. The guilt, the shame, the sense of failure, the indignation and the grief have all been a lot to deal with’ (Commenter: L Stokes).

The idea that anyone should be made to feel this way is incredibly sad. M’s story took place in the early 20th century, and this is an issue that is still felt today. I very much admire Grémillon for approaching the subject.

There is so much more I could say about this book, so many themes which could be explored, but I feel I have written enough for now. For anyone reading this who has not, I would urge you to read the book, it is a beautifully written, thought provoking read. You will not be disappointed as you read the final page, and see the secret of fully unraveled and laying before you in its entirety. The novel is captivating to read and satisfying to have read.

When I finished ‘The Confidant’ I felt the indescribable mix of sadness and fulfillment which accompanies the completion of a really fantastic novel.