Kate Ryan reviews 'Poum and Alexandre: A Paris memoir' by Catherine de Saint Phalle

Kate Ryan reviews 'Poum and Alexandre: A Paris memoir' by Catherine de Saint Phalle

Poum and Alexandre: A Paris memoir

by Catherine de Saint Phalle

Transit Lounge $29.95 pb, 285 pp, 9780994395771

Catherine de Saint Phalle’s memoir brings us the developing consciousness of a star-struck but lonely child as she struggles to understand and negotiate parents who appear to her mythic, godlike. There is her Spanish-born mother, Marie-Antoinette or Poum, whose main occupation seems to be reeling off The Odyssey and whose sudden appearances and disappearances are ‘like the goddess Minerva’s’, and her father, Alexandre, who sweeps Catherine along on glamorous excursions and regales her with stories – here Napoleon or Caesar, there his childhood dog, Touts – before unceremoniously disappearing for days on end. Catherine is captivated as much by Poum’s whimsical moods, fears, and obsession with death as by Alexandre’s grandiose tales, but as parents they scarcely appear to see her as a child who needs their care.

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Kate Ryan

Kate Ryan

Kate Ryan writes fiction and non-fiction and has worked as an editor for various publishing houses. Her work has appeared in publications including New Australian Writing 2, The Sleepers Almanac, Kill Your Darlings, the Griffith Review, TEXT and will appear in Best Australian Stories (2016). Her children's picture books have been published by Penguin and Lothian. Kate's short stories were shortlisted for the 2015 Josephine Ulrick Award and longlisted for the 2016 Elizabeth Jolley Prize. Her essay 'Psychotherapy for Normal People won the Writers' Prize in the Melbourne Prize for Literature (2015).

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