- By Judith Thurman

Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette

  • Title: Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette
  • Author: Judith Thurman
  • ISBN: 9780394588728
  • Page: 354
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Secrets of the Flesh A Life of Colette A scandalously talented stage performer a practiced seductress of both men and women and the flamboyant author of some of the greatest works of twentieth century literature Colette was our first tr

    A scandalously talented stage performer, a practiced seductress of both men and women, and the flamboyant author of some of the greatest works of twentieth century literature, Colette was our first true superstar Now, in Judith Thurman s Secrets of the Flesh, Colette at last has a biography worthy of her dazzling reputation.Having spent her childhood in the shadow of an oA scandalously talented stage performer, a practiced seductress of both men and women, and the flamboyant author of some of the greatest works of twentieth century literature, Colette was our first true superstar Now, in Judith Thurman s Secrets of the Flesh, Colette at last has a biography worthy of her dazzling reputation.Having spent her childhood in the shadow of an overpowering mother, Colette escaped at age twenty into a turbulent marriage with the sexy, unscrupulous Willy a literary charlatan who took credit for her bestselling Claudine novels Weary of Willy s sexual domination, Colette pursued an extremely public lesbian love affair with a niece of Napoleon s At forty, she gave birth to a daughter who bored her, at forty seven she seduced her teenage stepson, and in her seventies she flirted with the Nazi occupiers of Paris, even though her beloved third husband, a Jew, had been arrested by the Gestapo And all the while, this incomparable woman poured forth a torrent of masterpieces, including Gigi, Sido, Cheri, and Break of Day Judith Thurman, author of the National Book Award winning biography of Isak Dinesen, portrays Colette as a thoroughly modern woman frank in her desires, fierce in her passions, forever reinventing herself Rich with delicious gossip and intimate revelations, shimmering with grace and intelligence, Secrets of the Flesh is one of the great biographies of our time.

    1 thought on “Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette

    1. 4.5/5The mere possession of an "interesting" personality is no longer the ticket of admission to a terminally sated and bored society which has developed, as Arendt puts it, "a morbid lust for the exotic, abnormal and different, as such."I am familiar with two of the authors of the blurbs on the back of this book. One of them I view with the sardonic eye of "Oh One much praised by others, I've a feeling I'll much enjoy tearing you apart." The other is a genius in my mind, mayhaps by way of my la [...]

    2. I often think of this book--like whenever I'm asked if I could have dinner with three people, living or dead. After reading this book, Colette is my ultimate dinner companion. What a life. She straddled centuries, classes, sexes, mores, and managed to become one of the most acclaimed writers of her time. Judith Thurman is an admirable biographer, bringing you in not just to a life, but to what was a very strange social order, the French demimonde. Riveting and rereadable--don't give your copy aw [...]

    3. This is an excellent, if slightly unusual biography - Colette herself was highly unusual, of course, and this is one of the few biographies I've read where the subject triumphs. I mean, yes, yes, that's partly my own sympathies speaking up, isn't it: when you mostly read biographies of artists (especially writers and movie stars? riiiight) and politicians (especially Alexander Hamilton and T.E. Lawrence? riiiiight), then an overall sense of failure is going to crop up. But Secrets of the Flesh i [...]

    4. I just reread this and greatly enjoy it. It has been done very thoroughly and does not give any impression that anything could have been sloughed over or left out. I am not at all disappointed and yet I can't give it five stars because the author put far too much of herself into it - a morally opinionated and properly feminist modern woman with little in common with Colette. I think the best biographies give you almost no real sense of who the author is and what their own outlook on life might b [...]

    5. Bottom Line FirstSecrets of the Flesh; A life of Colette is over long. The scholarship is excellent. Ms Thurman is at her best giving her analysis of Madam Colette's extensive library, but the biographer cannot tell the difference from significant, or illustrative events and tittle-tattle. Overall this is a good book. There is too much book and not enough of it is important.Early in Secrets of the Flesh Author Judith Thurman tells us that her subject, Colette may have invented the modern teenage [...]

    6. WHEN WILL THIS BOOK END??? I've yet to master the art of skimming, and this book needs this method, otherwise it's an endless barrage of poorly-connected details with an occasional "daring" interpretation that reads like a copy/paste from Freud or Wittig. Even exhaustive biographies need to tell a story, omitting some details in favor of a whole. That's my opinion at least (I see the other point too - life is full of disconnected minutiae, so is a bio, etc etc). So this baggy monster is informat [...]

    7. Let's just say this up front: I can't possibly give a book about Colette less than three stars unless it's not talking about Colette at all. The story got a little boring in parts, and I don't think it's because of Colette's life; I think it's in the way it was told. Maybe the biographer has been reading too much Colettee she seemed to be attempting to make the writing a little to florid. And too philosophical, and a little presumptuous. Props to her for doing so much work on piecing together a [...]

    8. I really enjoyed this book. I don't normally ready biographies, but this was fascinating, I didn't even mind the extensive detail. Colette lived a wild old life, and is as interesting a character as any in her books. Made me want to reread her novels.

    9. I have given it up for now(page 507)-it is good, but too detailed and long. I feel like I have to read something else now. Maybe I will continue to read it someday.

    10. And they say we are the selfish generation. These guys (Colette's friends, enemies, etc.) did what they wanted. Drugs, sex, art--believing it was worth it, not paying attention to the rest of the world, not even to their friends, they were takers. Book gives a good pic of the boho life in Paris at the turn of the century and what it became as the bohos aged. Many not well. But they broke down the corsets and lowered the bloomers forever. I guess that's good.

    11. Occasionally hagiographic, but wonderfully written, this has to be my favorite biography. I took a long time reading it, reading through Colette's oeuvre at the appropriate points and Thurman's work deepened my appreciation for the works I'd already loved and confirmed some of the suspicions about her lesser work (looking at you L'Enclave!). Highly recommended.

    12. Gut, aber nicht glänzend und viel zu lang. Man hätte gern ein wenig mehr en passant über die Zeit gelernt. Ein wenig Dreyfus. Proust und Cocteau. Willy. Sie war Schauspielerin, Pantomine und verkaufte Parfum. Man fragt sich, warum die Leute immer Geldsorgen hatten. Love affair mit Stiefsohn. Warum nicht?

    13. If most of us in this country knows Colette at all, we know her through Gigi, the 1954 movie starring Leslie Caron and Louis Jourdan, and featuring the now problematic little song, Thank Heaven for Little Girls, performed by the inimitable Maurice Chevalier. I like it anyway. After all, the original Gigi was being groomed to be a courtesan. This was just another day in the life for Colette.Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette (Ballantine Reader's Circle) by Judith Thurman, is a stunning biogr [...]

    14. What a fascinating read. So many insights into this woman's life and writing. The author told this story beautifully.nst a backdrop of Paris. World wars and social acceptance. Great stuff.

    15. Judith Thurman accomplished a majestic feat, by thoroughly delving into the correspondence, fiction, non-fiction of the scandalous and sensual fin de siecle authoress Colette. She also balanced her own staggering volume with critiques of other published biographies on the subject. Unfortunately the scope of Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette was too overwhelming to be consistently engaging and the style tended to cite works rather randomly, transitioning between Colette's prolific fiction a [...]

    16. This is a well written biography that is also well balanced in its presentation. Though Thurman obviously has great affection for her subject, she does more then present a one-dimensional portrait of a woman who was both a famous author and a feminist pioneer (not that Colette herself would have subscribed to such a description). Instead, Thurman does not hesitate to show the many darker sides of Colette's character in all their pettiness and nastiness, and the book is much richer for it.The bio [...]

    17. Yes, it has taken me years to finish this book, but I think I actually finished it twice. It has traveled to Paris and back in every season, sat on all of my nightstands and been referenced a hundred times. (The reference sections are a writer's dream come true!) I suppose I didn't want it to end Like, I didn't want to come to the part when she dies. But having "finished" it, I know it will forever be on my nightstand. I have dog-eared and/or highlighted passages on most of the 500 pages. I woul [...]

    18. Through my reading of various books and biographies, I have heard of Colette, mostly of her scandalous life, rather than of her writing. I decided that I wanted to know more about her and bought this biography. I wasn't disappointed and was pleased to learn that while she did live a scandal ridden life, she also wrote some of the best French novels of the last century. Having read of her life, I will read some of her novels, starting with what are considered her best, Cheri and The Last of Cheri [...]

    19. This is a great biography of a truly fascinating person. I've heard other readers complain that Thurman didn't seem to like her subject very much, but I don't think that's true. Thurman presented her subject truthfully and Colette was not always a nice person. She was a hedonist, a conservative with severely liberal life choices, and contradicted her opinions with her life. Regardless, she lived. Really lived and was an amazing writer who took chances to tell the truth in her writing few do even [...]

    20. A very thorough and well written biography. The first part also provides some, to me, fascinating background and insights into the fin-de-siècle (the 19th that is) decadence in Paris. I was also surprised to learn that she published in extreme right wing and anti semitic journals before and during the war. Sometimes, knowing the background of a book's creation provides extra enjoyment when reading it. In this case, however, I'm glad I read Colette's books before I learned about the circumstance [...]

    21. Fiercely independent, wildly creative, and supremely individual, Collette is a wellspring of passion.All the waves and sour turns in her life have lead me to put this one down a few times but that's just a matter of my feeling invested in Collette and her trials. I'm semi-literate but find Secrets of the Flesh to be well written, often sharing a tone that compliments the flair and wit of the Collette quotes peppering it's pages. A colorful character path finding while exploring the depths of her [...]

    22. Poor Colette. Relegated to the junior psychology and Nazi apology of Judith Thurman, this book suffered tremendously to the point where I wished Colette had keeled over in her early 20s. Are you interested in a pathetic attempt to construe an authors life events through their fiction? Terrific! I have just the book for you, and even better it is 500 pages long. Oh the unsupported assertions. Oh the painful recounting of delicate fiction through the rude mechanics of a failed history PhD. In hono [...]

    23. Am working through this for my book club I'm not sure if its my kindle copy, but the author seems to switch subjects & time references frequently. Its a bit hard to keep track of the characters and places occasionally. Since this isn't a book I would have chosen, I don't wish to be negative about the subject so really can't say much about it except that I find them all rather self-important and self involved. I'm not going to finish it and i'm about a third of the way through the 500 pages [...]

    24. Anyone who loves Colette's books will love this biography. Her life reads like one of her novels, and Thurman turns the art of biography into true literature. She writes wonderfully about the famous French author, and manages to recapture the extravagance of this daring, original woman with wit, intelligence and understanding. Colette's eventful life (not without ambiguities) and great literary accomplishments are well described and explained, and Thurman keeps an objective eye on her complex su [...]

    25. This was fascinating. I majored in French literature and somehow I missed the entire Belle Epoque.I'd heard of Collete and Willy but had no knowledge other than the names. This was rambling at times and a little hard to follow and it took awhile to get going (really, it wasn't until the last 200of 500ges that I finally got hooked). I really admire the wealth of primary sources--absolutely fascinating.

    26. Judith Thurman has written another very long, very good biography. Colette was an interesting and talented woman with an unconventional life. I did find my interest waning at times and thought some sections could have been condensed a little, but would generally recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the subject.

    27. When you want to understand something about your time, sometimes it helps to examine similar issues 100 years prior. I knew little of Colette before reading this book except for a couple of novellas. Now I feel I have a much more solid understanding of her time, the lit world, and the experience of being a woman. And Thurman's straightforward and thoughtful prose makes me want also to read her biography of Dinesen.

    28. Can you believe I got this with only 2 euros? Even when translated into Finnish the writing is beautiful for a non-fiction work. It blends in perfectly among those little Colette quotes. Not only Thurman has captured the spirit of Colette she also writes objectively and corrects some of the misconceptions that the reader may have heard about her.

    29. I suddenly thought I should look a little more into my French heritage, so Colette seemed like a natural. NOBODY in Elk Co had any of her fiction so like any grown man, I asked my Mom for help. She sent me the gift I bought her about 8 years ago, so I've started it and I'm enjoying it because I love the freedoms of doing something for the sake of pleasure.

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