Two volumes of Colette's most beloved works, with a new Introduction by Judith Thurman.
Chéri, together with The Last of Chéri, is a classic story of a love affair between a very young man and a charming older woman. The amour between Fred Peloux, the beautiful gigolo known as Chéri, and the courtesan Léa de Lonval tenderly depicts the devotion that stems from desire, and is an honest account of the most human preoccupations of youth and middle age. With compassionate insight Colette paints a full-length double portrait using an impressionistic style all her own.
|Publisher:||Farrar, Straus and Giroux|
|Edition description:||First Edition|
|Product dimensions:||5.48(w) x 8.19(h) x 0.87(d)|
About the Author
Born in 1873 in France, Colette was the author of many acclaimed novels noted for their intimate style. Other Colette titles from FSG include The Complete Claudine, Gigi, Julie de Carneilhan, and Chance Acquaintances, Vagabond, and The Complete Stories of Colette. She died in 1954.
Reading Group Guide
Questions for Discussion
1. What did you discover about Colette's life by reading Judith Thurman's introduction? Why might Colette have opposed suffragettes while applauding women who were financially independent? How did the knowledge of Colette's later affair with her stepson affect your reading of Chéri?
2. Discuss the novel's theme of physical beauty. Does a woman's power lie in her appearance? When it comes to aging and the laws of attraction, do equal standards exist between men and women?
3. In the novel, power is also derived by showing no desire: both Léa and Chéri are careful not to reveal their feelings for each other. Do you think this is the way most couples experience a relationship? Would Léa and Chéri have stayed together if they had talked of love sooner, or did uncertainty keep their relationship alive?
4. Do Madame Peloux and Madame Marie-Laure (Edmée's mother) have similar approaches to parenting? Are they good mothers?
5. What did Patron, the boxer, try to teach Chéri about being a man? What does Chéri seem to believe about the differences between men and women? Why does his femininity vex Léa?
6. To what extent does Léa act as a surrogate mother for Chéri? Is it good for wives and girlfriends to behave maternally toward their men?
7. What are the other effects of the age difference between Chéri and Léa? How does age give Léa an advantage over Edmée?
8. How does Desmond's club reflect France's cultural history during this time period? What was symbolic about the sale of Léa's home (to Americans, no less)?
9. What does Chéri mean when, on page 263, he says that he is chaste while the rest of the world is mired in deception? Is he right?
10. In terms of mood, tone, and storytelling, what shifts did you notice between Chéri and The Last of Chéri? How did your impressions of Chéri change between the opening scenes of Chéri and the closing scenes of The Last of Chéri?
11. Does Léa's life appeal to you? Who is her twenty-first-century equivalent?
12. Would Léa have married Chéri, given the chance? Would their marriage have been happier than his marriage to Edmée? What is the difference between Léa's financial power and Edmée's?
13. What pain is Chéri trying to relieve in the closing scene of The Last of Chéri? Do his actions mean that Léa "won"?
14. What distinctions did you notice between Chéri and the film? What might Colette have said about the production? What made Michelle Pfeiffer ideal for the role of Léa?
15. Which of Colette's novels had you read previously? How does Chéri echo Colette's other portrayals of men as lovers?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The great Colette's "Cheri" is an exquisite work, both linguistically and psychologically. The descriptive language is breathtaking, and the writer's fine-tuned sensitivity to nuances of emotion is truly extraordinary. I read the book after having seen the new film starring Michelle Pfeiffer, "Cheri", a magnificent masterpiece, rich in nuance and opulent detail, set in gorgeous Belle Epoque France. The film leaves us in a romantic mist, however, by omitting "The Last of Cheri", the companion piece, although arriving at the same denouement. The book glosses over nothing, however, and part two is a very brutal portrait indeed. Of course it is all about real love, sketched in chiaroscuro relief with all its imitations, social conventions, and the ultimate high cost and lethal effects of choices made not with the heart. After finishing the book, I felt quite shattered by this tragic tale so beautifully and relentlessly told by that ever precise anatomist of the heart, the ever-astounding Colette, who never removes her gaze nor dissembles. Her gorgeous language is not mere filigree but embodies the truth she tells in an even more profound fashion.
This is a combination of two individual books, which I will review here separately. The first, "Chéri," introduces us to a stunningly beautiful, conceited young man named Frank Peloux, otherwise known as Chéri. At twenty-five years of age, he is having a love affair with the sophisticated Léa de Lonval, a courtesan twice his age. When Chéri must marry a young heiress, Léa reluctantly decides that they must end the relationship. Chéri pretends indifference, but finds himself haunted by the one person he has ever cared about - Léa.Though the plot a bit was blurry, I found the characters complex and thought provoking. While I wouldn't consider the story as a whole exceedingly well written, the characters were realistic and interesting.Chéri and Léa's relationship intrigued me. Why does Léa stay with the selfish, arrogant Chéri? Why does a young man who has every young beauty in Paris falling at his feet choose a woman in her late forties as his lover? As someone in a relationship with someone more than twice my age, I always find age differences fascinating to read about when combined with romance.Chéri, the main character, was someone who I found myself hating intensely and sympathizing with all at once. He is far from admirable, being far closer to evil. I was infuriated by his flippant arrogance, his self proclaimed malice and selfishness, and the way that he referred to his wife, Edmée. Some of the things that he says so shamelessly are truly shocking. One of the first was early on the book, where he tells Léa about his fiancee: "Oh! She won't be allowed to have a say in anything. She's going to be my wife, isn't she? Let her kiss the sacred ground I tread on, and thank her lucky stars for the privilege. And that will be that."Surely he is joking! However, as we read further into the story, we see that he was completely serious. Among his other horrifying statements is that he actually wants Léa to mourn him and die of grief once they are parted. He is honest, you have to give him that.However, we see another side of this monster as well. We see that despite his pretense of being cold and unfeeling, he is truly in love with a woman who he cannot have. His fanatic longing and weary outlook on life is realistic, and sharply felt.Chéri is a well written, complicated mix of hero and villain.His lover Léa is mentioned constantly, though she is not physically present in very much of the story. She is a mature, sensible woman who took Chéri on as her last affair. And who better than a far younger man with the looks of a Greek god? Léa is fashionable, she is sophisticated, she is regal. I pictured her a woman with an ageless sort of grace that is often more beautiful than a pretty face.But, as with her young lover, there is another side to her as well. It does not take the reader very long to figure out that Léa's staged attitude of wanting Chéri for his looks only are as false as Chéri's own indifference. She is just as in love with him as he is with her, and is almost surprised to find herself distraught enough to run away from Paris after his marriage.Then there are other characters that are not quite as memorable, but still very well written. There is the beautiful young Edmée, who at first thinks herself lucky to be engaged to the gorgeous Chéri. But she is in fact destined to live an unhappy life with him as her spiteful husband. She was another interesting character - she hates Chéri, and yet she cannot help but love him as well. Her mother and Chéri's mother, Madame Charlotte Peloux, were also well written minor characters.So, the character writing in this book was well done. I wish that the rest of the story had been so good!But the plot was barely existent, and there were plenty of long discussions and portions of the book that were nearly completely pointless. Unless the characters were doing something in particular, it was pretty dull listening to them gossip and go through daily life.Another thing that annoyed me was how
If you loved the movie you will love the book. The second gives one more of look into Cheri's depression which seems to be epic level gloominess. Poor Cheri!