"Somewhere around the age of 12, I suddenly realized my family was going straight to Hell, all five of them, and that it was up to me to do something about it." Thus speaks Régine, the narrator of Penny Howson's sprightly and charming memoir of a French childhood.
Fresh from her first communion, Régine zealously tackles the problem of Godlessness in her Parisian family. But her progress on behalf of le Bon Dieu is slow. Her father is preoccupied only with the fluctuations of Anaconda copper stock and the dreadful effect of the new Metro line on his wine cellar. Her grandmother, Boma, concentrates on knitting and on the tribulations of her weekly day of dieting. Her mother's response is pleasantly vague; her sixteen-year-old sister, Tozy, is more direct: "Who asked you, little fat one!"
This leaves only her five-year old brother, Jean-Paul. And he, more than any of the others, requires her attention - for Jean-Paul has not been baptized! With her goal now clearly in mind, Régine is relentless. In the face of her family's massive indifference, she determines to baptize Jean-Paul herself, and the rollicking pursuit of her brother's salvation that follows is a masterpiece of wry and affectionate humor.
In her loving characterizations of her family, in her deft use of comedy and in her representation of a French way of life that has almost disappeared today, Penny Howson has created a gem of a book. The Pope, My Brother and I is funny, heart-warming and poignant in the finest tradition of childhood recollections.
St. Martin's Press, 1966
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About the Author
About the Author
In the spring of 1938 Penny Howson moved from Paris, where she was born, to the US, never to return. After the war, she and her American husband went to Rio de Janeiro for six years and then lived in Connecticut for ten years. Here, she began writing short stories about her childhood in France. She attended writers' workshops in Darien and at the New School for Social Research in New York City; one of them, led by Kay Boyle, gave her the impetus to complete the book, The Pope, My Brother and I (recollections of a French childhood). It was published by St. Martin's Press and the Macmillan Company of Canada Ltd. in 1966. A German edition of the book, published by Rex-Verlag Munchen, came out in 1970 under the title Reifepafz zum Himmel.
Her husband's numerous overseas assignments led her to Lisbon, Tokyo, London and Jeddah and The Pope, My Brother and I gave her the credentials to write for newspapers and magazines wherever she settled. A mother of three, Mrs Howson now lives with her husband in Portugal.