Posted in 1940s, Historical fiction, Writing

WeWriWa—Madame Druillet’s kindness

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

I’ve gone back to my hiatused WIP The Strongest Branches of Uprooted Trees, which follows a group of young Shoah survivors during the early postwar years. We’re now in Part IV, “An Exile Driven on By Fate,” in which the friends travel through Italy and France before finding a place to call home before immigrating.

The friends are currently staying in Nantes, France, the home of almost-15-year-old Marie Sternglass. Though Marie was full of hope and excitement when they arrived, those feelings have completely disappeared after rude treatment by old acquaintances, discovering another family living in her old house and refusing to give her back any of her belongings, and learning her father didn’t survive.

I’ve skipped ahead quite a bit so I can start my Halloween-themed excerpts next week. In this scene, Marie and her friends are in the home of her mother’s friend Eléonore Druillet. Though Madame Druillet has some special belongings which Marie’s mother gave her for safekeeping, and promised to speak to a policeman friend for help with reclaiming the things in the house, Marie barely reacts to these happy developments.

L’An 2440, Rêve S’il en Fut Jamais (The Year 2440, A Dream If There Ever Were One) is a French version of Rip Van Winkle.

View of Cimetière Miséricorde in Nantes, Copyright Llann Wé²

Mme. Druillet served them a snack of hard-boiled eggs, tomato and carrot salad, macarons, pralines, opera cake, and hot chocolate. As they ate, Mme. Druillet made smalltalk with Caterina, Artur, Imre, and Júlia, and taught the others the French words for some basic objects in the apartment. Marie didn’t say much of anything, and just picked at her food. She was still picking at her food when everyone else had finished eating, and her hot chocolate had grown rather lukewarm.

Mme. Druillet set the tableware in the sink and went into her bedroom. Several minutes later, she returned with a black mink coat draped over her left arm, an antique lamp in her right hand, several books tucked under her left arm, and a framed photo of Marie’s parents on their wedding day and a peacock feather fan in her left hand. Marie barely looked at these items, though she caressed the fur coat.

“Those were her favorite books,” Mme. Druillet said. “She knew she couldn’t save all her books, but she wanted these in particular to come back to. She also gave me all sixteen volumes of The Human Comedy, which are in a trunk under my bed.”

The ten lines end here. A few more follow to finish the scene.

Marie mutely looked at the books, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Three Musketeers, and L’An 2440, Rêve S’il en Fut Jamais. She’d often looked at these books on her parents’ shelves and dreamt about the day she’d be old enough to read them, and all the other adult books in the house. Now they represented the life she’d once had, the life that was hers no more. Books on shelves were things for other people, happy people with intact families in their own homes. Not war orphans who no longer knew how to be normal.

“Look in the coat pockets, Marise. I hid the rest of the items in there.”

Marie catatonically reached her hand into each pocket in turn and pulled out French hook garnet earrings, a sapphire necklace, an aquamarine bracelet, several costume rings and bracelets, pink pearl hairpins, emerald clasp earrings, and a turquoise necklace. Though her eyes normally sparkled at the sight of jewelry, now she just mutely regarded each piece as though they were insignificant scraps of paper.

Author:

Writer of historical fiction sagas and series, with elements of women's fiction, romance, and Bildungsroman. Born in the wrong generation on several fronts.

2 thoughts on “WeWriWa—Madame Druillet’s kindness

  1. “Marie mutely looked at the books, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Three Musketeers, and L’An 2440, Rêve S’il en Fut Jamais. She’d often looked at these books on her parents’ shelves and dreamt about the day she’d be old enough to read them, and all the other adult books in the house. Now they represented the life she’d once had, the life that was hers no more. Books on shelves were things for other people, happy people with intact families in their own homes. Not war orphans who no longer knew how to be normal.”

    that moment. [Now they represented…]

    When it comes to books – don’t wait until you think you’re old enough – or until the school system or parents say you’re old enough.

    If books are there – they are to be read.

    [having said – I didn’t read Hunchback until the end of 2019/beginning of 2020

    still haven’t read the Three Musketeers – though I have another Dumas book which I read in 1995/96 and a few years later

    as for *L’An 2440; Rêve S’il en Fut Jamais* – thanks for the pointer, Carrie-Anne].

    [It’s the sort of thing a good librarian would give – and surely libraries are for war orphans].

    [Knowing how to be normal is a process which your writing has shown so well – especially in the Ballad of Lyuba and Ivan].

    ***

    Also Marie’s reaction to the food was very moving.

    Oh those macarons! [they became trendy in 2007-10 for Anglophone plates and snack tastes].

    The peacock feather fan is a great touch.

    [and it leads people to your Dante book hopefully].

    The non-reaction to the books and the non-reaction to the jewellery…

    Marie never expected to be this sort of hollow, husked adult, did she?

    #whattraumadoes

    Like

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