Christine Feret-Fleury is an author based in France. The Girl Who Reads on the Metro is her first book to be translated into English and is being published around the world. She recently agreed to talk about it with Daryl Maxwell for the LAPL Blog.
What was your inspiration for The Girl Who Reads on the Metro?
At first it was a challenge from my publisher Béatrice Duval. She wanted a novel that would take place in the Parisian metro and be nourished by the love of literature. And I accepted the challenge and enjoyed it so much!
Are Juliette, Soliman, Zaide, Leonidas, or any of the other characters inspired by or based on specific individuals?
Not really, but they are each expressing a different part of me.
How did the novel evolve and change as you wrote and revised it? Are there any characters or scenes that were lost in the process that you wish had made it to the published version?
It didn’t change much. I write very slowly and edit as I am writing.
Have you ever given a life-changing book to a person? What was the title and to whom did you give it?
To a friend who was hesitating to turn her life around completely, I gave Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. And she did.
Have you ever received a life-changing book from someone? What was the title and who gave it to you?
When I was very young, a man I loved gave me Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke. Thanks to this book, I learned pretty much everything I know about love and what it means to be an artist.
Do you have a favorite bookstore in Paris (or somewhere else)?
I have two favorite bookstores in Paris; le Divan and Shakespeare and Company. Lovely places!
Do you read on the metro? Where is your favorite place to read or watch others while they read?
Yes I do. I like to be surrounded by other users because I am nearsighted and that’s the only way I can see what they are reading!
What’s currently on your nightstand?
Mostly poetry—Winter Trees by Sylvia Plath; Through the Naked Branches by Tarjei Vesaas; a book of poems by Wislawa Szymborska; a novel: Big Breasts & Wide Hips by Mo Yan; a collection of short stories to improve my English!; The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault by Angela Carter.
What was your favorite book when you were a child?
My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara.
Was there a book you felt you needed to hide from your parents?
Delta of Venus by Anaïs Nin.
Can you name your top five favorite or most influential authors?
Toni Morrison; Jorge Luis Borgès; Colette; Gabriel Garcia Marquez; William Faulkner
What is a book you've faked reading?
I could not finish Voyage au bout de la nuit by Céline but I don’t mind saying it to people.
Can you name a book you've bought for the cover?
The Accompanist by Nina Berberova. And I did not regret it.
Can you name a book for which you are an evangelist (and you think everyone should read)?
The Ice Palace, Tarjei Vesaas!
Is there a book you would most want to read again for the first time?
The Ice Palace, Tarjei Vesaas!
What is your idea of THE perfect day (where you could go anywhere/meet with anyone)?
I wake up, it just snowed during the night. I take a long walk in the snow. Then, I cook a good meal for the people I love the most. I read a very thick and gripping book in the most comfortable armchair ever in front of a roaring fireplace with a purring cat on my knees. I play music with friends. I savor the meal I cooked earlier with my loved ones. I bring the final dot to a novel I really care about. Then I take another lonely walk under the moonlight and discover a way to enter a parallel world where fictional characters come to life…
What is the question that you’re always hoping you’ll be asked, but never have been? What is your answer?
The question (one of them): “Are you happy?”
The answer (just now): “Yes, I am.”
What are you working on now?
I just published a psychological thriller about classical music, La Femme sans ombre. Right now, I’m starting a new story about a cat, a cook (parts of my perfect day!) and a beautiful village in Italy.
In The Girl Who Reads on the Metro, Christine Feret-Fleury tells a delightful tale about the love and power of books and the need for all of us to move beyond our zones of comfort. It is a type of literary fairy tale, where many of the mundanities of life are referenced but never focused upon, and there is always time to read another book or spend time talking about a book with a friend over tea. However, like many fairy tales, there is a dark edge to the story, one that firmly grounds it in reality, keeping it from being completely overtaken with whimsy. Feret-Fleury stresses the need for us to become full participants in our world, rather than observers who merely watch as others “do.” This is a charming and enjoyable read.
Book Review: The Girl Who Reads on the Metro