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October 2, 2013

ERNESTINE by Claire Nicolas White

4  STARS


ERNESTINE
by
Claire Nicolas White



Ernestine
Published July 2013 by NY Creative Publishing


OVERVIEW
(from GOODREADS)

Ernestine, a novella by Claire Nicolas White, is the remarkable story of a widely popular, fictionalized teenaged character in modern Europe whose adventures are based upon the life and times of a ninety year old artist who grew up in Europe during WWII.

The real Ernestine, whose name is Francine, has lived a fascinating life. In her youth she was lovely and interesting, and greatly pursued by men the world over. The child of a Flemish woman and an unknown father (a wounded German soldier or Russian aristocrat); Francine grows up in Belgium with her Grandmother. Later in her 20s, she shelters and protects a Jewish law student from Nazi soldiers while living in Paris, and through the help her employer, secures his passage to safety out of France, but never sees him again.

After the war, she travels to the United States and meets countless celebrities during the post-war American “fanny years”. She describes meeting with Peggy Gugenheim, Max Ernst, and others, including practicing eye exercises with Aldous Huxley after driving across country from New York to California with her first husband.

These fantastic stories are adapted by her protégé Christophe, a young man who routinely visits her and fictionalizes her stories of fame and glory through the eyes of a fourteen year old “Ernestine,” who rides a pink bicycle while carrying an oversized umbrella. Wildly popular in the form of serialized illustrated novels, Francine’s seaside home in a remote part of France is turned into a tourists Mecca for Ernestine followers, complete with bus loads of Eastern Europeans wanting to catch a glimpse of the phantom celebrity.

This setting creates a carnival-type atmosphere where Francine reflects on her past adventures while being doted on by her male housekeeper, a theology professor from a neighboring town. There are secrets, however, and complex relationships that bring long-lost friends and lovers back onto center stage, as mysteries unfold regarding the true nature of the relationships of those who surround her.

A visit form her wealthy husband who lives elsewhere in Europe triggers a series of events that are unanticipated by the reader, setting the stage for a surprise ending.

While the subject could lend itself well to potential serialization, as a novella it satisfies the reader with its depth of character development and intriguing subject matter.


REVIEW
This is a story of a fictionalized teenaged character whose adventures are like the life of a ninety year old artist who grew up in Europe during WWII.  Francine , the real Ernestine lived a life full of adventure.  In her younger days she was quite popular with the young men.  She was quite a looker.   She is raised by her grandmother in Belgium.  Later in her life she help a Jewish law student from being found by the Nazis. She helps to get him safely out of France and never sees him again.  Ms. White did a wonderful job of mixing the characters' lives so that you became interested in more than just your main character. Francine went to the states and was visited regularly by men from all over the world. She meets Christophe.  He takes her stories and  adventures and tells them as fourteen year old 'Ernestine" sees them. "Ernestine" rides a pink bike and carries a big umbrella. I wish the story had been longer and had more  details of Francine's  adventures. The ending was surprising but too short. I was quite happy with the story.  I just feel it needed more detail.  Perhaps if there is a sequel, the characters and settings could be expanded which would fill in the blanks where ERNESTINE left off.

I would give this book 4 STARS.

I was given a complimentary copy of ERNESTINE from the author Claire Nicolas White for my honest opinion.  I received no other compensation.


AUTHOR

Claire Nicolas White is a poet, translator, playwright, and the author of a novel, a memoir and three non-fiction books about members of her family. Her poetry has appeared in many publications including the New Yorker, the Partisan Review, the Paris Review, the Hudson Review, Grand Street, Atlantic Monthly and Commonweal.

Claire was born in 1925 in Groet, in the north of Holland. Her father, Joep Nicolas, was a Dutch stained glass painter; her mother, Suzanne Nys, a Belgian sculptress. She went to convent schools in Limburg, then for a year to the École Alsacienne in Paris. With the German invasion imminent her family came to the United States, arriving in Manhattan in 1940. There she attended the Lycée Français, from which she graduated in 1943. She finished her studies as an English major at Smith college. She had a short story and a poem published in Junior Harper’s Bazaar and published a bilingual journal, called Marsyas, which was featured in the magazine. She also translated a memoir by a young French girl, written during the war, for Pantheon Books.

Claire continued to write poems and articles for Vogue and Harper’s, and published a novel, The Death of the Orange Trees (Harper and Rowe, 1963), and Biography and Other Poems (Doubleday, 1981). On Long Island Claire taught dancing and French, and wrote several plays for the Women’s Theatre Repertory. Later she taught poetry and memoir workshops to senior citizens for TAPROOT as well as at the Walt Whitman House, C.W. Post, Long Island University and Stony Brook University.

Over the years she continued to spend time in Holland, composing a book about her father’s work (Joep Nicolas: His Life and Work; Van Spijk, 1979). She also translated three novels from the Dutch and edited a Dutch issue of Columbia University’s Translation magazine, as well as translating French poetry such as Alfred de Musset’s La Nuit de Mai.

Her collection Biography and Other Poems was published by Doubleday in 1981, her memoir, Fragments of Stained Glass by Mercury House in 1989, and The Elephant and the Rose: a Family History in 2003 by Vineyard Press. She edited Stanford White: Letters to his Family for Rizzoli in 1997, and published a book about her late husband’s work (Robert White, Sculptor; Waterline) in 2006. She has been the editor of Oberon magazine for ten years.



clairenicolaswhite.com

http://www.shelfari.com/books/36744987/Ernestine

http://www.amazon.com/Ernestine-ebook/dp/B00E653XV8

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18522190-ernestine?ac=1

http://bemiown.blogspot.com

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