While there is no one to like in Colette’s novel Cheri, there is much to like.
Cheri, a young man in his early 20’s, is the spoiled child of wealth. He has spent the last six years as the kept pet of Lea, the much older lifelong friend of his mother. Before Cheri was old enough to have affairs, Lea went through a series of young lovers, all beautiful men she kept for entertainment purposes– enjoyed but never loved. Now, after six years with Cheri, she suspects they may have real feelings for each other. But their age difference and the scandal it could cause force Cheri to bend to his mother’s will and marry a girl his own age.
It doesn’t really work out.
Cheri is a spoiled brat who desperately needs a father capable of giving him a good 19th century thrashing. His mother is a snobbish, overbearing busybody. His young wife is a prig. His lover Lea is ruthlessly cold-hearted in spite of her sexual passion. None of them work for a living. None of them do anything interesting with the unlimited free time their wealth brings them. So why bother with any of them? Because just as you’re about to set the whole thing aside in disgust you come across a passage like this one.
‘It serves me right. At my age, one can’t afford to keep a lover six years. Six years! He has ruined all that was left of me. Those six years might have given me two or three quite pleasant little happinesses, instead of one profound regret. A liaison of six years is like following your husband out to the colonies: when you get back again nobody recognizes you and you’ve forgotten how to dress.’
Okay, that’s pretty good. I’ll stick around a chapter or two more.
And I ended up not only sticking around until the end, but enjoying the book as well. I’m surprised to admit this, but Cheri may end up in contention for my favorite reads of 2010 list. While I wouldn’t want to spend any time with any of the characters in Cheri, I enjoyed reading about them and I’m looking forward to reading the sequal, The Last of Cheri. I kind of hope he dies in it. That would be a very satisfying ending.
I’m a little embarrassed to admit that in the five years since I first published this review on my old blog, Ready When You Are, C.B., I have not gotten around to reading The Last of Cheri. I think I still have a copy of it around the house somewhere, so reading it would not violate the rules of the TBR Triple Dog Dare…