A while ago I decided I was going to try and read more classics, the thing I completely forgot? I hate reading classics. This isn’t to say that I hate classics, I actually rate Pride and Prejudice and Tess of D’Uberilles as two of my favourite books but generally I find it hard to read classics. As someone who generally reads a lot of young adult, it’s pretty hard making the move over to classics. The writing is different, the setting is different and on whole the books are hard to get into because although classics are generally set in a world that I’m familiar with, the way of living is completely different.
That said, I’m still trying and I thought I would ease myself into some classics, I bought a tonne of the Penguin Little Black Books in the hope that they would give me an insight to a lot of authors writing style then I could pick some that I enjoyed the most and continue with those. I also picked up A Parisian Affair… I thought short stories were the perfect way to get into classics (let’s just forget that I didn’t even finish James Joyce’s first short story in The Dubliners)
A Parisian Affair is a collection of short stories written by Guy de Maupassant and translated by Sian Miles. Set in Normandy and the French Riviera, the thirty four short stories follow a number of characters with one thing in common; they’re rich. The stories follow high society women, wealthy men who like to play around and prostitutes, among many more.
Naturally this book jumped out at me, not only because by the blurb it sounded ahead of it’s time but also because it was set in Paris and even if I hated the book I could just read all about Paris and remember how much I love it there.
I’ll be honest, the first story, Boule de Suif, was a bit of a bore to me, although I liked the main female character, I just found it hard to get into and the first story alone took me a week to read. Naturally, I started to worry that this was going to be one of those books that takes forever to finish. I’m not someone who can leave a book, I have to finish and I worried that my reluctance to leave a book would mean that at the end of the year, I had only read half of my target book goal.
Luckily I was wrong, after finishing Boule de Suif, I found myself reading the next short stories right away and I found that I loved the head strong women of France along with the love struck men and lovers. I started to see Paris in the book; I saw the romantic city where love and romance can be found on every street corner. I felt like I was back in my favourite city, feeling all the emotions of Maupassant’s characters and walking their footsteps. It has to be said that once I got into the writing style, I felt like I was in the book; Maupassant has an amazing way of making you feel like you are one of his characters (well I did).
My two favourite stories by far were Mother Sauvage and The Jewels. Mother Sauvage tells the story of a woman whose son goes to war and never returns; while they are away she hosts some soldiers from the opposite army. The end result is twisted but hilarious, there was a moment when I wondered if it was ok that I should be laughing at this story but in the end I decided to go with it.
The Jewels tells of a man who falls deeply in love with a woman he meets and then goes on to marry, the only problem is that he doesn’t share her passions so is relieved when she befriends someone who will accompany her on outings to places like the theatre where he would prefer not to go. In his wife’s death he is devastated and can’t seem to find it in himself to go out and earn so had to look around for something to sell in order to live. Again, I loved the ending, I don’t want to give away what happens (it’ll only take you nine pages of the Penguin Pocket Classics to read and find out for yourself) but I found myself glued to the pages wanting to find out more.
If you’re interested in reading more classics, then I would certainly recommend A Parisian Affair, it may not be the most well-known or the most highbrow but it is good fun and easy to read.