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“Brilliant. . . .the place itself is the seduction.” —Bookforum
“Absorbing . . . The novelist's brilliance in evoking the quiet tensions of marriage and motherhood engender an immediate sympathy. . . Seamlessly interwoven are Victorine's reflections on her turbulent life, offering a glimpse back into the incredible pain and sense of betrayal her romantic whimsy caused.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“Flaubert's classic hovers around the hem of this novel. . . . Texier has an unsparing sense of ethical complexity, the partial satisfaction that must suffice for a person torn between irreconcilable desires and responsibilities." —The Christian Science Monitor
“A spellbinding novel made all the more powerful by a profound examination of remorse.” —The Sunday Advocate (Baton Rouge, LA)
“Mesmerizing . . . With lush, vivid description, Catherine Texier brings to life both the world around Victorine and the woman herself.” -Booklist
“A novel of historic change, adventure and passion that keeps you feverishly turning the pages.” -The Herald Express (UK)
“Lovely and original...A tantalizing mix of fact and fantasy: the author inhabits her great-grandmother's soul.” -Laura Shaine Cunningham, author of Sleeping Arrangements and Dreams of Rescue
“While [Victorine] can be enjoyed simply for its love story, its period flavor, and its gorgeous settings, it also offers an honest portrayal of just how wrenching and lonely rebellion can be.” —The Boston Globe
“Texier beautifully evokes the textures of daily life: a crisply told, rattling good tale.”
-The Independent (UK)
“A steely, delicate fictional tale of unaccounted-for years in the life of Texier's own great-grandmother...reminiscent both of Madame Bovary and Duras' The Lover.” -Publishers Weekly
“Texier knows how to do place, and mood, and how to make the reader understand the depth of personal dilemma. It's a haunting and remarkable read.” -Joanna Trollope, author of Other People's Children
“A sensuous, devoted piece of work that works hard to evoke French domesticity and later the headily foreign atmosphere of colonial Vietnam.” —The Miami Herald
“[An] evocative, erotic and enjoyable story.” —Sunday Telegraph (UK)
“A marvelous achievement, a historical novel that reads less like an invention than like a discovery, a love story that has sprung to life of its own accord from an old trunk. Graceful, subtle and vivid.” -Paul LaFarge, author of Haussmann, or the Distinction
“Romantic . . . Echoes of both Madame Bovary and Kate Chopin's The Awakening suffuse a nevertheless inventive and artfully composed delineation of a beguiling and complicated woman's arduous journey toward self-understanding. A subtly textured fourth novel: Texier's best yet.” -Kirkus Reviews
“Elegant and affecting.” -Scotland on Sunday
“Elegant as a pair of satin gloves, Catherine Texier's Victorine is the enchanting narrative of a unique woman. This is a seductive work of art.” -Diana Abu-Jaber, author of Crescent
“Absorbing. . . . The novelist’s brilliance in evoking the quiet tensions of marriage and motherhood engender an immediate sympathy.” —San Francisco Chronicle
The introduction, discussion questions, suggested reading list, and author biography that follow are intended to enhance your group’s discussion of Catherine Texier’s Victorine. In addition, we’ve included recipes for delicious French treats to serve at your next meeting.
1. How would you describe Texier’s writing style? Why has she chosen to structure the narrative around a single day late in Victorine’s life and interweave it with flashbacks? How does this structure work with the plot and the atmosphere of the novel? What effect does the structure have on the reader that a straightforward, chronological structure would not? What is the purpose of Texier’s prologue and epilogue?
2. Describe the different places in Victorine. What do the landscapes hold for the characters and the story? How do the characters react differently to the various landscapes? How are Victorine’s houses in both Vendée and Vietnam described? Why are they described in such detail?
3. How has growing up in a small village in Vendée, on the Atlantic coast of France, affected Victorine’s personality and desires? How has it influenced her decisions and compromises? Why does she escape this world and then abandon her new life and return to France?
4. Why is the tale of how Victorine got her name important? Does it reveal anything about her and what she is going to be like? How do her childhood and her parents mold the adult that Victorine becomes? Describe her parents. In what ways is she similar to her father? How does he encourage her to follow her dreams?
5. Antoine tells Victorine, “I will not betray you” [p. 158]. But Victorine reflects that she is the betrayer. Discuss the theme of betrayal in this novel. What types of betrayal occur in the novel? Who betrays whom? Is silence a betrayal? Antoine tells Victorine, “It’s your silence that is poisoning your life” [p. 241]. Do you agree with this statement? Are the French betraying the Vietnamese? Are they betraying the democratic ideals of their home country?
6. What is the role of opium in the novel? How do the various characters react to it and change their opinion of it over the course of the novel? How do the French use it to control the Vietnamese? How do various people use it to control others? Why do the French tax opium? What do you learn about French colonialism in Indochina through reading Victorine?
7. Discuss the theme of the corset and the unhooked woman in Victorine.
8. How are the characters of Antoine and Armand both similar and different? How does each court Victorine and win her heart? What attracts her to each man? Is her relationship with each man different? What determines and undermines Victorine’s romantic attachments? How do the events of the novel shift her ties to each man? Armand explains to Victorine, “If you’re never satisfied with what you have, you’ll always be miserable” [p. 121]. Does she have a satisfying relationship with either man?
9. “How can she, just like that, walk from one man’s bed to another’s?” Victorine asks herself [p. 154]. How and why does she?
10. Describe her relationship with the Buddhist monk. What do they share? What does she learn from him and perhaps he from her? How is he different from the other men in her life?
11. Contrast Victorine with the other women in the novel—her sisters, Armand’s sisters, her mother, and Camille. What is her relationship like with these various women? Why does she want to continue working when all the other women around her are housewives?
12. What kind of mother is Victorine? Why doesn’t she take her children with her when she escapes to Vietnam? How has motherhood transformed or hindered Victorine? What is Victorine’s mother like?
13. The novel raises the question of whether responsibility to one’s family and society is more sacred than being true to oneself. Discuss the tension between responsibility and freedom in Victorine’s life. How does she both escape and embrace her feelings of captivity and independence? Does she remain true to herself with her decisions?
14. Victorine is filled with references and allusions to books and to writing. In what ways is the novel both telling a story and commenting on the importance of stories and novels in our lives? What is the importance of novels about women and far-off lands to Victorine? Who are her favorite novelists? Name some of the books mentioned. What is the significance of the references to writing—postcards, journals, letters, teaching the students to spell, and learning Chinese calligraphy?
15. Why does Victorine throw away the notebook of her journal entries after keeping it for so many years?
16. What is the significance of the abundant ocean and water imagery (the canals of Vendée, the Mekong River) in Victorine? What do the beach and the ocean represent for Victorine? What about the stuffed seagull?
Posted February 17, 2011
Victorine had a very confusing plot, when there was one. The use of the author's last name had me confused. Is this fiction, is this non-fiction? is it a memoir? I had no idea.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 9, 2008
I would not agree that the character's grandmother was 'remarkable'. I thought the main character of the book was selfish, for leaving her husband and children for a former lover and moving halfway across the club with him, where she went to parties and got drunk & high. It was interesting to read why she did the things she did, but I didn't feel I connected to the main character. It was an okay book to read for the bargain book price I paid for it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 1, 2007
I thought this book had great potential, but it just didn't seem to quite make it to that place where one could definitely say this was a great book. I enjoyed the stark contrast between sceneries - France vs. Vietnam - though they have a long relationship with each other, it always seems a little hard for me to fathom that relationship. I enjoyed reading about the turmoil and indecision in Victorine's life that ultimately led her to leave her family in France and run off with her lover, but there just didn't seem to be enough emotional detail about what really attracted her to this man, unless it was nothing other than his good looks, and that's a pretty fickle reason to leave your entire family. I guess we're just supposed to infer that it really was several things that made her leave - her unhappy relationship with her husband, lust for her lover, and the fact that she was given the perfect opportunity to escape from everyone and everything she knew. After Victorine's return to her husband, it seemed as if the author just ran out of steam and was in a hurry to finish writing the book. The aftermath of all of this would have been just as fascinating as the 'beforemath' or 'duringmath'! Somewhat interesting reading, but not enough for me to really recommend it - if it's still a bargain book, go ahead and buy it. If you don't like it, you can always donate it to your local library, which is what I'm going to do with my copy.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 8, 2004
I finished reading it last night. I bought it the day it was release because I saw it in The New York Times Book Review 2 days before came out and wanted. To find more about this book go the the reviews from the publisher, critics, read the interview author. I love the whole book and hope it will become a movie as well. Thank you.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.