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Cheri and the Last of Cheri Paperback – October 10, 2001

4.3 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Everything that Colette touched became human . . . She was a complete sensualist; but she gave herself up to her senses with such delicacy of perception, with such exquisiteness of physical pain as well as physical ecstasy, that she ennobled sensualism to grandeur.” ―The Times

Chéri is her masterpiece.” ―Michael Straight, The New Republic

“Dramatic and moving . . . [Chéri] endears itself to the reader partly because of its subject, but more because of the manner of its telling.” ―The New York Times

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 2nd edition (October 10, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374528012
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374528010
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #265,551 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The two "Cheri" books are a tribute to the power of love and the beauty of the human spirit, written as only the divine Colette could have done.
In 19th-century Paris, formidable courtesan Lea, a once-breathtaking and sought-after beauty, is still beautiful in middle age, albeit a bit wiser and more wistful. A friend, Mmm. Peloux, herself an aging courtesan, sends Lea her only son Fred (affectionately known as Cheri) to be groomed in the ways of the world.
Cheri, a selfish, self-centered young man in his 20s, is almost excessively gorgeous. And Lea, a woman who is well beyond the infatuation stage and certainly well aware of all of his many frailties, is simply besotted with him. Under her care, Cheri is spoiled, pampered, gifted with expensive presents, and indulged in every possible way, from sexual to culinary delights. In his own pompously careless way, Cheri loves Lea as well, calling her "noun-noun," and partaking of her generosity, in bed and out, like a child. And so goes the relationship--Lea, looking over her shoulder at approaching age and the subsequent loss of her looks; and Cheri, taking everything she has to offer with complete abandon. Until his mother declares him groomed quite enough--and arranges a suitable marriage for him with a beautiful young woman.
So ends Book I, "Cheri." "The Last of Cheri" is quite a different matter, as chilling in its way as "Cheri" is sensual. The mood of the book is a type of frantic fear. Lea, ever the no-nonsense realist (in her line of work, she has to be) knows from her mirror that her time as a beauty is gone. Without Cheri, the spectre of aging begins to haunt her in a very real way, and with a kind of real terror, she contemplates her lonely and manless future.
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Format: Paperback
These two short novels by the French writer Colette cover a territory with which I have to admit to being completely unfamiliar, that of a young man's romantic education by a much older "kept" woman -- a lifestyle I assume to be uniquely French. "Cheri" is the nickname of the man in question (real name: Fred), and his protectress and instructress in the arts of Eros is named Lea, who, an implied courtesan like his mother Madame Peloux, is kept wealthy by one or more benefactors. Having grown up fatherless and free from discipline, Cheri is immature and spoiled, self-assured that he will be amply supported by his good looks and the middle-aged women who dote on him.
At twenty-five, after living with Lea for several years, Cheri decides to marry a rich, younger girl named Edmee, and Lea understands that the time has come to let him go. Their separation is not as easy as that, however; the bottom line is that he truly loves Lea, more so than he does Edmee. With Lea he has developed a special relationship that somewhat perversely combines aspects of mother-son, boyfriend-girlfriend, and teacher-pupil. His greatest chagrin is the realization that he was even naive enough to assume that he was Lea's first and only lover, never conjecturing the sources of her income.
Colette's apparent purpose in these novels is to display a dramatic transformation of character. At nineteen, Cheri is a joyful and frivolous youth; at thirty, a discontented and disillusioned man suffering from an idle lifestyle and a loveless marriage. He is unable to relate to his wife Edmee, who does charity work for a hospital and hobnobs with various public figures -- selfless gestures that are alien to his personality.
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By A Customer on February 26, 2003
Format: Paperback
The first book, Cheri, is a rather trite love story about the affair of an older woman with her young lover. There are certain enjoyable sequences, and the sado-masochistic undercurrents keep things interesting, but the novel doesn't have much depth. It's the second novel, The Last of Cheri, where things truly get rich. Watch as the carefree, rich, beautiful Cheri slowly disintegrates into despair. The character, none too likeable in the first book, becomes almost sympathetic as he approaches his inevitable destruction. Money no longer interests him, his earlier hedonism no longer gives him the least satisfaction. Life, and his wife, have become a bore. Once having tasted the stratosphere of love, and loved the goddess Lea, existence in the ordinary can give him no satisfaction. All he has is memory. His best moments are behind him and the future can't offer anything to compare. All of his old acquaintances are busying and satisfying themselves with their grand little projects. These seem trivial to Cheri, even (especially!) his wife's noble charitable work. How pointless these endeavors are compared with love.
On the one hand it is almost satisfying to watch this shallow, callous young man's fall. He is the kind of person who, in the first book anyway, one would like to see get his. Yet one can not fail to sympathize, even empathize, with Cheri. We are not so different, we ordinary and haughty folk. We all feed on the same sustenance. Trying to live off memories, trying to revive the past and failing, these are things we humans do from time to time. For some, it consumes us.
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