It’s Mad Martha with you today presenting a very unusual little offering in the world of literary fiction. I was lucky enough to win a review copy of this one through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers Program and because of this have been introduced to a little gem of a read that is a perfect pick for holiday hermit reading. The book of which I speak is Tita by Marie Houzelle. Here is the blurb, from Goodreads:
Tita is seven, and she wonders what wrong with her. She has perfect parents. She puts on plays with her friends, spies on adults, challenges her teacher, and even manages to read forbidden books. She should be happy. But she dreams of a world without meals, and keeps worrying about her mother’s whereabouts, spoiling her own life for no reason at all. Tita wants to be good – but how?
As her small town vibrates to age-old Latin rituals on the verge of slipping away, Tita finds refuge – and a liberation- in books.
life and certain adult themes
in multiple tongues
Now I usually make up my own description of books that I review, but I have slacked off today and used Goodreads’ blurb because I really can’t think of how to describe the happenings in the book, as they are a distant second to the characters’ relationships. Tita is a precocious seven-year-old who is greatly interested in the workings of the adult mind and the way the social world works. Fortunately for the reader, while Tita is precocious, she manages to be so without the usual irritiating attitude that goes along with it – in a sense, Tita knows how much she doesn’t know and is perfectly happy to annunciate the gaps in her knowledge in order to fill them. Our fleshlings happen to be Catholic, so the references to Catholicism and its traditions and Tita’s schooling were both familiar and amusing. If you don’t know much about Catholicism, I’m not sure how you’ll take those passages – hopefully they’ll give a good measurement on the ole’ odd-ometer.
I can best describe this book as charming. Tita is a sensitive and astute narrator and the reader is left to ponder her observations, particularly those relating to the relationship between her father and mother, from an adult perspective. I very much appreciated the introduction to French culture and language that I received in reading this book – I have always considered it a particular failing that of the many languages that I have studied, French was (and is) conspicuously absent. Houzelle has redressed this to some extent, as the French language and its influence are threaded through almost every scene in this book. There’s also a little glossary at the back, so non-French-speakers can better understand particular phrases or references.
This is a gentle read, where events move at the pace of a Sunday morning breakfast and I suggest that’s exactly the sort of feeling you should bring when embarking on Tita’s journey of musing.
Au revoir mes chers,