It seems to be birthdays galore at the moment, and today is a very special one – that of the wonderful French author and bon viveur, Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, known more familiarly to readers simply as Colette.

Jean Cocteau and Colette, Paris ca 1950 -by Robert Cohen

Jean Cocteau and Colette, Paris ca 1950 – photo by Robert Cohen

Colette was another one of those amazing women writers I discovered in the flowering of my interest in literature – the late 1970s and early 1980s were a real voyage of discovery for me. I read through Colette’s works from the very beginning, in lovely pastel-colour covered editions from Penguin; from the early adventures of Claudine, all the way through to Colette’s last days, crippled by arthritis but still writing under the light of a blue-shaded lamp.

break of dayBut my favourite book of hers has always been “Break of Day”, with its glorious descriptions of the south of France, and the author’s wry comments on love and ageing and her relationship with physical, earthy things. I’ve returned to it regularly over the years and it never disappoints.

Colette lived a full, exciting and pioneering life, with enough events to actually fill several lives! I was thrilled when I found out she had actually been filmed in her latter days and it was wonderful to see a recording of the real woman.

Happy birthday Colette!