Review: A Slight Misunderstanding – Prosper Mérimée

slight misunderstanding

I have just been to see the film Les Miserables, a brilliantly produced gloom-fest (despite the best efforts of Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter to lighten the tone).  My response wasn’t quite as dramatic as that of the family in the viral video who left the cinema sobbing (hear the father say, “I’ve been to funerals more cheerful than this!”) but it would be hard to remain dry-eyed throughout especially when Samantha Barks sings On My Own as she walks through the rain after seeing the love of her life in the arms of another woman.

It seemed a good week to read about another French tragedy contained in the short novella, A Slight Misunderstanding by Prosper Mérimée which was recommended to me by Guy of His Futile Preoccupations and Emma of Bookaroundthecorner.

A Slight Misunderstanding is a near-perfectly constructed story about a young woman, Julie de Chaverny, married to someone she has come to dislike intensely.  Julie finds an outlet for her romantic feelings in mild flirtations but is quite determined to avoid anything more serious.  Her enthusiasm for romance has been curtailed by her disappointment and she has become “agreeable to everybody in general and to no one in particular” (perhaps we all know people like this).

Enter stage left the young Major de Chateaufort, an officer with “a charming face” and “extremely likeable”.  He receives a note written by Julie on behalf of her husband, inviting him to dinner.  Being a conceited young man, de Chateaufort reads far too much into every phrase of the note, exclaiming to his friend Major Perrin,

“Can’t you see the fondness in that letter, My dear Major de Chateaufort, Please note that in another letter she just wrote Dear Major de Chateaufort . . . I shall be doubly grateful to you, there’s no mistaking what that means”.

(I can’t imagine what de Chateaufort would have made of the endless LOLs and XXX of today’s social media).

Continue reading