Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Petite allure

Petite Anglaise, by Catherine Sanderson, is available in stores today.

I've been reading Petite's blog for years (even commenting a couple times regarding the oddities of raising a bilingual child) — I'm familiar with the meat of the story that comprises this book, and I'm thrilled to have a review copy. (In Canada it's the US edition you'll find.)

I've always felt an affinity for Petite, seeing a number of parallels in our lives: shacking up with some French guy, adopting a "foreign" city in which to make one's home, feeling a bit trapped by motherhood, in many ways parenting singly and knowing the irony of living in a chosen place but deprived of the ability to experience it fully. And of course, blogging.

This book is not a printout of her posts. While still charming and frank, it lacks the breeze — the apparent spontaneity — of the blog. But in recompense, we're treated to behind-the-scenes glimpses of how those anecdotes are inspired and then crafted into a blog.

We learn how unspontaneous much of the writing is. Most interesting to me is the exploration of the online blog persona — an almost fictional character, scripted and edited to perfection, or, at least, to purpose. Doesn't every blogger consider the problem of persona at some time?: How genuine is a post and its writer when they clamor for effect, playing to their audience? Writers write themselves: more confident or more sympathetic or wiser or more curmudgeonly often than real life allows. Chosen facets played up, improved, and others ignored. It may be honest, even brutally so, but selective.

I'd venture to say that Petite, as alterego, is a better writer than Catherine, but this memoir still provides a vital counterpoint to her blog.

"Mummy's got a bad, bad headache," I mumble feebly, turning onto my side and burying my feverish face into the cool pillow instead.

But there is no pain, at least not in a physical sense. I am, quite simply, stricken with horror; aghast at the thought of the upheaval I am poised to inflict on our little family. Terrified that what I am contemplating can somehow be read in my face: a scarlet letter freshly branded on my forehead.

And yet, at the same time, every cell in my body vibrates at a higher frequency. I feel the blood thundering through my veins; the hair on my arms standing on end. My fear — fear of hurling myself headlong into the unknown — is shot through with giddy exhilaration. Never have I felt so guilty, nor so intoxicatingly alive.

Fuller excerpt here.

Petite Anglaise is an engrossing, quick read, and a sharp reminder that some things, on blogs as in life, can't be unwritten.
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