by Jean Giono
Jean Giono seems to be something of a literary hero in the Provence region. This book (Katherine Allen Clarke's translation of Jean le Bleu) may demonstrate part of that fame. It is an intense fictional memoir of growing up in the inland mountains of Provence and its many small towns, and takes place in the opening decades of the 20th century. The book is rich with the many characters little Jean encounters, but spirals around his own life and that of his father, some of which is quite mysterious and vaguely suspicious. One might call this a coming-of-age story, but that limits one's expectations of its rewards. Jean feels the world around him, and Giono beautifully evokes those feelings. The boy is young and engaging, growing up and discovering a sensuous attachment to nature. His world is also peopled with the characters who live around the courtyard of his village home, and that of the country farm where he spends a magical summer. Their stories are told from a distinctly youthful perspective, but with a vivid and emotionally rich feeling of retrospect, as the author/narrator looks back upon his youth. There is a rich love of the land, of nature and of life here, with an earthy connection to all three in Giono's writing. The book is deeply-felt, energetic, mysterious and engaging.
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