If Paris is the city of love, then Colette (Sidione-Gabreelle Colette 1873 to 1954) is her high priestess. For many their image of Paris derives from memories of the movie, Gigi, made from her probably most famous work. Living to almost eighty, she produced many volumes of writings of all sorts. When she passed in 1954 she was given the first ever state funeral for a French woman.
Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette by Judith Thurman. A truly great biography, must reading for all Francophiles
Gigi is set in the demimonde world of early twentieth century Paris. "The Demimonde World" refers not to straightforward prostitutes but to women supported by wealthy, often older, married men. Gigi is a girl of sixteen, two years younger than my youngest daughter, who is being trained by her two aunts, both made comfortable by a life in this world, to be a suitable companion for a Baron. It is a world of glamour and sophistication. The very real power of Gigi is in the conversations of the aunts with Gigi, their instructions. When Gigi asks about marriage, she is told "women in our family do not marry". Her mother is an actress, the theater as Colette knew very well, as closely tied to the demimonde world and was often seen as a place to exhibit your charms. The role of the mother in the story is very interesting.
Gigi has an admirer very interested in her. Gigi knows what she will soon be expected to do, her aunts are counting on her earnings. The demimonde world was rife with gossip. One of the aunts iclose friends had just overdosed on laudanum in an effort to win back Gigi's admiror who had gotten bored with her. Gigi knows once she has slept with a man of the sort one finds in her world, imagine an aging born to money Maurice Chevalier or a younger Loius Jordan who plays Gigi first lover in the movie, he may begin to lose interest in her. Thus her aunts coach her how to acquire valuable jewels from your admirors while seemingly having no interest in money matters.
Some will see the sexual pursuit of sixteen year old girls by fifty plus year old wealthy men as nearly crossing into pedeophilia.
The ending is very interesting. Gigi has learned her lessons well
So far for July in Paris I have read
1. The Dogs and the Wolves by Iréne Nemirovsky
2. Mavis Gallant - Two Set in Paris works, a short story and a note book entry
3. Five Nights in Paris by John Baxter.
4. The Little Paris Book Store by Nina George
5. "The Problem of Summer Time" by Marcel Ayme
6. "Love Under the Roof" by Emile Zola
7. "The Purse" by Honore de Balzac
8. Favored Stranger: Gertrude Stein and Family by Leslie Warren