An elegant evocation of the poetry and pain of childhood in a small French village before and after WW I. From the vantage point of her 80 years Marokvia recreates and reimagines her often lonely youth. She writes simply but powerfully of life in the isolated village where her father was the town schoolteacher, town secretary, and resident atheist and freethinker. Her mother was often depressed and ill, with little time for her daughter. With her vivid imagination as guide, Marokvia was left to amuse herself and make sense of the confusing adult world, with its contradictory rules and strange behavior. The author confesses that she lost all faith in adults as a five-year- old when the adored family doctor jokingly promised to marry her—and shortly thereafter showed up with a fiancÇe, crushing the hopes of this serious and literal child. The narrative focuses quite a bit on death, and in a fascinating section, Marokvia describes the visitations of a ghostly child that only she sees—this girl eerily resembles a sturdy- looking schoolmate who has recently died from a heart ailment that the frailer Marokvia also suffered from but survived; this mysterious event was to have a lifelong impact on her. Other parts of the memoir are cheerier: her account of escaping over the wall of her boarding school to sit and read with her beloved grandfather; the joy of walking and bicycling through the nearby woods. Marokvia is particularly good at calling up the sights and smells and sounds of small-town France: the rhythm of rural life, the pleasures of a village parade, the excitement of a train trip, and more seriously, the ravages of a bloody war on this life. An unusual book that rewards the reader with its lyric prose and quiet grace.
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