The Countdown

This year the Advent calendar has a special meaning and added pressure: when Christmas will be over, there will be only a few days left before the baby arrives! Blogwise, this means that I’m trying very hard to finish posting about books and to finish most of the books that have been lingering on my night stand for… well, months, to be honest.

That, on top of Christmas presents, Christmas food orders (we host, since I’m unable to go anywhere), stocking up on supplies / furniture for the nursery, going to maternity classes (for a refresher) and trying to stay sane and rested… all this starts to feel a bit overwhelming.

What might very well happen: you might end up with a review on changing tables, my guests might have formula in Champaign glasses, get a brand new babygro wrapped in a christmas box, I’ll be spreading lotion on canapés, and there’ll be many unfinished books in my suitcase for the hospital. Or this blog will be very very silent (I wish you happy holidays and a happy new year, just in case) and I’ll be sound asleep by 6pm on December 24, while my guests will be at the door.

I plead guilty in advance.

So, just to talk about something a bit more literary, Petite Mort by Beatrice Hitchman. I have received a lovely hardback through Bookmooch and Litlove has loved it. But somehow, I didn’t quite warm up to it. It certainly ticked many of my boxes. Pre WWI Paris? Black and white movies? A young ambitious heroin determined to make it as a movie star, even by seducing the director? A complex relation triangle between the maid, the master and the mistress? All these appealed to me. And the execution was flawless.

Yet, the dual plotting line once again grated on me (this is soon becoming my pet peeve, except when it is well done). There’s enough mystery in the 1913 story with all its own back stories, the 1967 discovery of the movie reel and the dialogue between a journalist and the actress, now an elderly woman, didn’t seem necessary to me. Likewise, there’s a big twist at the end, which I won’t disclose here, but that wasn’t really necessary either.

It made me think of Sarah Waters, which definitely is a good point for Hitchman given the number of Waters’ fans, but unfortunately to me it had the same problem: coldness and emotional distance. I didn’t really care. I’m sorry to sound trivial, but I couldn’t believe that any of the characters were French, except perhaps the voice of the elderly woman. But I would be hard pressed to define what makes a French voice, or what would make Hitchman’s characters more French to me!

Given the enthusiastic reviews here and there, I’m statistically on the wrong side of the fence. This probably isn’t the book’s problem, maybe just mine. So if you want to give it a try, don’t hesitate and come here to let me know what I missed!

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6 thoughts on “The Countdown

  1. Not having read the book I’m more interested in your comment about Sarah Waters because I also find her work difficult to care about. However, you’re the first other reader I’ve come across who shares my problem and so I’ve always assumed that the root of the trouble must lies with me. You give me hope that that is not the case.

    I hope all goes well with the baby and that when you can you will let us know that you and s/he are safe and doing fine.

  2. Oh, congratulations! I know just what you mean – my brain is prematurely turning to all things baby even though we are hosting Christmas as well (for the exact same reason). Right now I find it hard to believe anyone wants to do anything other than watch my belly. Me “Look! Look at his foot!” – Sam and E: “Yeah, we saw that last night, too.” It’s going to be an interesting countdown to Feb. 1…

    • That’s what make pregnant women online communities so useful: you can tell them every minute about your belly and the baby’s foot and they won’t be bored, they’ll find it cute! I hope hosting xmas won’t be too exhausting for you, you have to take it easy until Feb 1!

  3. How funny that they didn’t strike you as French! It’s quite okay, not every book suits every reader (and I do like Sarah Waters, so that may be it!). I laughed so much at the thought of you spreading lotion on canapes. Yes, that’s exactly how I remember the early motherhood days too. Look after yourself, first and foremost. Everything else can wait or go neglected, it’s just not that important.

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