Un peu de lecture

Mémé dans les orties

Another thing I love about the fall is the idea of curling up with a book as the temperatures drop and the days grow shorter. Not that I need a seasonal excuse – reading for me is a year-round occupation.

My favourite place to read is also where I write this blog: in bed. Mostly in the mornings. I also read before going to sleep, but my eyes tend to glaze over pretty quickly. I read for pleasure exclusively on paper, not e-books. Besides the fact that screens are not pages to me, anything electronic feels like work. And there is something about holding a book in your hands that I can’t imagine going without.

Although I speak French fluently, I read almost exclusively in English. French often feels like work, and until a few years ago, there were so many gaps in my vocabulary that I was always scrambling to look up words.

I’ve started reading a few French books lately. There was ‘L’élégance du hérisson’ (The Elegance of the Hedgehog) by Muriel Barbery. A couple of novels by Michel Houellebecq. And at the moment, a slice of French life called ‘Mémé dans les Orties’ by Aurélie Valognes.

It’s about a bitter old man who makes life miserable for himself and everyone else who has the misfortune to live in his apartment building. It’s about the pettiness and solitude of everyday life, and, presumably, although I’m only half-way through, how that can all change with the arrival of a few new faces.

I love very human stories like this that combine humour with the bittersweet. Dysfunctional families and quirky love stories. One of my all-time favourite novels is hiding on the bookshelf in this picture. Can you guess which one it is?

By the way, for those who are interested: the title comes from the expression ‘Il ne faut pousser mémé dans les orties.’ I had to look this up as I’d never heard it before. Essentially it’s a way of saying ‘il faut pas pousser’ – or don’t push, meaning don’t exaggerate, take advantage, go too far. At least not so far as to push poor Granny into the nettles!

Do tell me: what are you reading?


  1. davidprosser · September 22, 2016

    I’m re-reading some Terry Pratchett and feel exactly as you do about holding an actual book. I have Kindle for PC but reading at the computer seems so much like work I squirm before too long.
    xxx Gigantic Hugs xxx

    • MELewis · September 22, 2016

      Computers are just not meant to take over all of our leisure time. 😉 I should also mention my bookshelf contains at least one of the Barsetshire Diary series – which I greatly enjoyed! xo

  2. Love your insights into the French language. Hemingway perhaps?

    • MELewis · September 22, 2016

      Merci! 🙂 I did enjoy the Moveable Feast but no – not Hemingway. In fact it is John Kennedy Toole, “A Confederacy of Dunces.” A brilliant work by a writer who tragically took his own life before getting the recognition he deserved.

  3. Mél@nie · September 22, 2016

    aha, je vois bien que la télépathie marche entre les Mels… 😉
    * * *
    bonne journée & have a sunny Fall! 🙂

    • MELewis · September 22, 2016

      Encore et toujours… Thanks Mel dear!

  4. poshbirdy · September 22, 2016

    I have noticed that I haven’t been reading for the last few weeks. I am still halfway through ‘Living to tell the Tale’ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I have read a lot of his work but I am going in circles a bit with this one. Hopefully my new specs (just realising exactly how blind I’m becoming) will make it easier to finish!

    • MELewis · September 22, 2016

      LOL. Believe I only read the one by him, which was of course brilliant. But sometimes brilliant can be hard going, and also sometimes much-loved authors just don’t deliver the same thrill. I think I might need new glasses myself. Either that or a head transplant.

  5. francetaste · September 22, 2016

    I started Don Quixote and love it but it keeps getting put aside at the moment while I am fixated on election news. I highly recommend “Le Coeur n’as pas de rides” (given in English as “The Heart has no age”) by Marina Rozenman. It’s in French but an easy read–I devoured it cover to cover in a day. It’s a collection of true stories about people who found love late in life. Told with great sensitivity and respect, the stories are by turns funny, charming and triste.

    • MELewis · September 22, 2016

      Finally found this comment in my spam folder and am replying! Oddly, your email bugged when I tried to reply to it. But then again, I also work from home and have had nothing but slow internet issues of late, so it may have been something here. Anyhoo, thanks for the recommendation – will definitely check it out! 🙂

      • francetaste · September 22, 2016

        Thanks for letting me know. Things have been weird today. If somebody hacked me they will be sorely disappointed as I don’t do this for money.

  6. Anna · September 22, 2016

    A Man Called Ove? 😉

    • MELewis · September 22, 2016

      Definitely my most recent fave, Anna! If only there were more like Ove!

  7. Suzanne et Pierre · September 22, 2016

    I also an avid reader and I now borrow books from the local library instead of buying them like I use to. I had to dispose of so many books when we moved to Paris that I decided that I would not again start accumulating them. Also, it is a great way to save money and try new authors…if you don’t like it, you can simply return it to the library and it didn’t cost you anything. I also prefer paper though we do own an e-reader. I read half-half in English & French…currently reading the last Marie Laberge (a Quebec author) – Ceux qui restent – the story of the people left behind after someone commit suicide and the pain they go through…very touching.

    Not certain I can identify your all time favourite but I did like a number of the books you have on your shelf and Carol Shield was one of my favourite Canadian author…

    • MELewis · September 22, 2016

      I would love to go to the library if such a thing were available near me. Don’t even know where the nearest one is, but I somehow doubt that in our country village I would find much, even in French. Glad to hear you are enjoying that part of being back in Canada. Our public libraries are pretty great, eh? You are right about Carol Shields, she is (was, sadly…) definitely one of my favorite writers. But the one I was referring to was ‘A Confederacy of Dunces’, as mentioned in my comment to Catherine.

      • Suzanne et Pierre · September 22, 2016

        I had investigated public libraries in Paris but their opening hours were so limited that it made it very difficult to use them. I think the tradition is more ingrained in the English-speaking countries. Montreal has only in recent improved their network of public libraries…

        As for your favorite book, I will have to look it up as I don’t know it…

      • Alpenhorn · September 27, 2016

        If you’re close enough to Geneva as a “frontalier” you can borrow books from our libraries (and prolonge them electronically if you can’t get back in time). I am always surprised by the English books I find at the libraries here. I’ve just borrowed Ian McEwan’s Children’s Act. It’s a book club book and I am not an Ian fan (a little too depressing) so I am very happy to borrow and give it right back!

      • MELewis · September 30, 2016

        Yes, I am close and that’s a great idea! Not sure if all libraries offer English books but I am closest to Eaux Vives, so will check that one out. Merci! 🙂

  8. Liz · September 22, 2016

    A Confederacy of Dunces?!

    • MELewis · September 22, 2016

      Right you are! Takes a sister to know, eh?

      • Liz · September 22, 2016

        Yes….it is a classic, very funny! But perhaps we see that more easily having grown up in the same household! 😉

  9. M. L. Kappa · September 22, 2016

    The one benefit of an e-reader is that if you’re reading in a language which causes you difficulty, you can just click on words and you get the dictionary and translation. I’m using this to read Elena Ferrante in the original Italian at the moment ( short chapters, which helps). Otherwise real books win out every time. The feel, and the smell – you forgot to mention the smell! I didn’t guess with your favorite was, but we seem to have the same taste in books. Have you tried Katherine Pancol for easy and fun French reading?

    • MELewis · September 23, 2016

      I did forget to mention the smell! The funny thing is that I was thinking about it as I wrote it. Nothing like paper (preferably old), for that slightly sour sharp smell that takes me into the author’s world. Thanks for reminding me! Have not tried Katherine Pancol, will check her out, merci!

  10. Osyth · September 22, 2016

    The Elegance of The Hedgehog …. What an adorable title! I’m reading ‘The Invention of Nature’ by Andrea Wulf … A nonfiction work about the life of Alexander von Humboldt, visionary German naturalist and really the person who formed the way we perceive nature today. I highly highly recommend it …. By the way, although I own a kindle I’m proud to say, I’ve never used it!

    • MELewis · September 24, 2016

      That title sounds really interesting, especially for my daughter the future vet. I do enjoy non-fiction, although mostly memoir. Good for you on getting a kindle. I know lots of people who swear by them but so far I’m resisting!

      • Osyth · September 24, 2016

        I’m sure your daughter would enjoy it …. Certain, actually. Given her chosen career. A stocking filler for Christmas perhaps (though I should was my mouth out with soap and water at using the C word is September!)

  11. Lex Leclerc · September 23, 2016

    I loved the Elegance of the Hedgehog! I also read Barbery’s second novel, “Gourmet Rhapsody.” That’s very good too. She’s so calm and wise and I love her food writing. I am not fluent in French but am trying to be, so I try to read French middle grade fiction. If you have any recommendations, I’d love to know. I went to a gigantic bookstore in Lyon and grabbed one about a magician. I don’t quite understand everything, but I like to follow the plot to learn new words and syntax. Lovely post!

    • MELewis · September 24, 2016

      Good for you on being so adventurous to read in French, especially if you are not fluent! Sometimes I think it is good to just follow without fully understanding – it requires a leap of faith that can produce very worthwhile results. Have not read the second Barbery but intend to. BTW, I met the woman who translated it into English at a writers’ conference. Very impressed! Glad you enjoyed the post!

      • Lex Leclerc · September 24, 2016

        Oh wow! C’est super! Yes, I find it helps me a lot because I look up words or just understand how they are really used. Listening is more difficult for me. A French book is a very calm and patient teacher 🙂

  12. wanderingcows · September 24, 2016

    I love reading too, although I tend to do it more on holiday. If you like very human stories, have you read The Moth? The collection of human stories really touched me, and I’m not a short story person.

    • MELewis · October 1, 2016

      No, thanks for flagging it! Following on Twitter and looking forward to reading their stories. 🙂

  13. The Laughing Housewife · October 1, 2016

    I don’t go anywhere without my Kindle. I wasn’t in favour of them until I received one as a gift; I’m now on my second. We have a small, cluttered house and the best thing about a KIndle, for me, is how many books I have stored in a device that’s half the width of just one book.

    Having said that, I haven’t let go of any of my actual books since receiving my Kindle…just in case 😉

    • MELewis · October 1, 2016

      I suppose there’s a strong argument for both! In fact, I’m for reading, plain and simple. ‘Peu importe’ the platform! I can imagine a Kindle would be a godsend if you are space-challenged.

  14. Maison Bentley Style · October 11, 2016

    I’ve been reading All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Loving it xxx

    • MELewis · October 12, 2016

      Read it this summer and very much enjoyed. Great minds read alike? 😉

  15. emilycommander · October 12, 2016

    I am just about to read the latest Sebastian Faulks, having been reading for work last week. I have to confess, though, for a shameful enjoyment of detective fiction…

    • MELewis · October 12, 2016

      Oh, yes, also love the detective genre when it’s well done. I went through a P.D. James period for quite awhile.

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