Cover image for Colette : a life
Colette : a life
Lottman, Herbert R.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Boston : Little, Brown, [1991]

Physical Description:
344 pages ; 25 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PQ2605.O28 Z715 1991 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Sidonie Gabrielle Colette was one of the most popular and eminent writers of the century in France. For 50 years she was at the centre of Parisian society, and in her work, as often in her life, she presented a liberating sensuality.

Author Notes

Herbert Lottman was a journalist, biographer, and historian of French intellectual life. After World War II, he moved to Paris, France. He wrote a variety of articles and reviews for several American periodicals including Harper's, Saturday Review, the New York Times, and the New York Times Book Review. He was Publisher's Weekly's European correspondent for more than 30 years. After leaving Publisher's Weekly, he began contributing a regular European column to Bookseller.

He wrote several books about France and its literary culture. He also wrote a series of authoritative studies of French authors Camus, Flaubert, Colette, and Jules Verne. After suffering through several degenerative diseases including Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, he died on August 27, 2014 at the age of 87.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

French writers are Lottman's specialty. He's written biographies of Flaubert and Camus [BKL Ap 1 79] and now tackles the robust, frequently exhibitionist and controversial Colette (1873-1954). Born into a feud- and poverty-prone rural family, Colette was saucy and adventurous. Her life took an unexpected turn when she married Willy. Critic, man-about-town, and philanderer, Willy ran a Parisian "novel factory," signing the works of others, particularly those written by his cowed, young wife. Together they produced the infamous Claudine series, creating a naughty cultural icon. After their divorce, Colette took to the stage, shocking and delighting audiences with her skimpy attire and lesbian relationships. Writing ceaselessly both as a journalist and as a novelist, Colette experienced both world wars, two more marriages, the birth of a daughter, and a liaison with her stepson. Lottman re-creates the literary climate of Colette's time and substantiates or discredits oft-repeated myths about this energetic, enigmatic, tough, and creative woman. Notes; list of Colette's books; to be indexed. ~--Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

The celebrated French writer, who emerged from a small Burgundy town a rustic innocent to take Paris by storm and eventually become a national monument, had surely one of the strangest lives of any literary figure. Married to her dominating ``collaborator,'' a Parisian wit and journalist called, simply, Willy, she also dabbled in lesbianism and eventually went on the cabaret stage. Though apparently no great shakes as actress or dancer, her vitality and sensuality made her a draw. Out of her second major heterosexual liaison her only daughter was born, and late in life she married again. She lived under the Nazi occupation, leaving a hint of collaboration, and died in 1954, 80 years old and much honored. She always worked hard, slaving against deadlines for magazines and newspapers when not on tour with the cabaret, writing novels in installments, stories, sketches, reviews and endless letters. She even launched her own cosmetics line. Perhaps overfaced with this polymath, Lottman, an admired literary historian (as well as PW's international correspondent) has fashioned a careful, painstaking biography that is far less spectacular than its subject. The facts are all here, splendidly researched, but more color is needed to bring this remarkable woman fully to life. Photos not seen by PW . (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Though best known for the novel Gigi , which won acclaim as a film starring Audrey Hepburn, Sidonie Gabrielle Colette (1873-1954) was also an actress and noted member of Parisian society as well as a prolific novelist read by people of all classes. Not a feminist in the modern sense of the word, she did feature female protagonists dissatisfied with the traditional roles available in bourgeois France. Lottman, author of Albert Camus ( LJ 2/15/79) and Flaubert (Little, Brown, 1989), has now written the first comprehensive account of her extraordinary life. He has interwoven Colette's personal history with the evolution of her artistic creations, illuminating her intelligence while illustrating her flair for flouting the mundane. Following her through her three marriages, he shows how she evolved as a writer while exploring her own sensuality, and how her works initiated a change in the way that men and women view each other. Recommended for public libraries. (Illustrations not seen.)-- Mary Ellen Beck, Troy P.L., N.Y. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.