Novel set in France (“smell the garrigue”)

  • Book: Tita
  • Location: France
  • Author: Marie Houzelle

Review Author: tripfiction



Author Marie Houzelle grew up in the south of France, near the setting of Tita. Her work has appeared in Best Paris Stories, Narrative Magazine, Pharos, Orbis, Serre-Feuilles, Van Gogh’s Ear, and in the chapbook No Sex Last Noon. Her short story “Hortense on Tuesday Night” was chosen by Narrative Magazine as one of the five top stories of 2011.

Her novel Tita is set in Cugnac, a fictional small town in the extreme south of France, somewhere between Perpignan and Carcassonne. It tells the story of an extremely bright and independent seven-year-old girl in a traditional wine-producing town the south of France in the 1950s. Tita – whose is really called Euphémie –  is a young girl living in the bosom of her family, with her younger sister. She is a ‘petite fille modèle” and this is her story, her experiences, her life. Father is struggling with his wine business, and Mother is disconnected woman who seems to struggle with her role as parent. And gradually it becomes apparent that Tita struggles with food, spurning milk products because they feel “intimately mammalian”. Food smells cause her to heave and steer herself to the furthest corner away from the gagging smells that assault her nostrils. So there is clearly some issue that is causing her distress and there are several examples of Mum not really being emotionally available for her daughter….

She is a bright, focussed little girl who is wonderfully endearing and Houzelle is terrific at capturing the ambience of rural France in the 1950s, and the nature of a young girl who is avidly engaging with the world around her. The book has a real old fashioned feel to it, it is beautifully written, it is funny, astute and warm, and the locale is very much an enveloping character in the book – you can almost smell the garrigue. A delightful read! Enjoy.

Over on our blog, Marie Houzelle talks to us about the book and locale. Click here.

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