Sally Gardner on the great classic of French literature about growing up and leaving childhood behind…
This is a novel that I would love to have written. It is a hauntingly evocative tale of growing up and leaving that peculiar land childhood far behind. At the heart of the narrative is a strange and mysterious adventure – a love story that changes the lives of the grand Meaulnes and all those who know him. It is a magical novel in the true sense of the word and its magic is woven like a golden thread right through to the very end. There lies in its prose a yearning for a world that is about to disappear, full of hauntingly lovely images that stay with you. Conjuring up a lost France of yesteryear, it was alas the only novel Alain-Fournier was to write for he was killed in the First World War.
Le Grand Meaulnes is a book that has held me entranced ever since I first read it. I have returned to it time and time again. Even the chapter headings such as ‘I used to take a great delight in standing at a basket-maker’s…’ are an enchantment to be savoured. I envy all you who are yet to read this book for the first time.
Le Grand Meaulnes by Henri Alain-Fournier is published in the Penguin Classics series (0 14 118272 5, £7.99 pbk).
Sally Gardner’s latest book is I, Coriander published by Orion, 1 84255 290 2, £8.99 hbk (see page 24 for review).