Bibliothèque de SuZette
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This moving tribute to Suzette is from a weblogger whose name was Patricia Fenn. A French-English woman who lived in New York, she went to a convent school in UK and spent the postwar years in France.
Her mother died in her arms during the bombing of London. She had a brother called Alain.
She was very ill and stopped to blog suddenly.
I went back again and again to her blog for almost a year, but she never reappeared.

Reproduced by kind permission of the author.

La Semaine de Suzette

Where life began to have meaning for me was during the summer of 1947. My father rented a small house at the seashore at a place called Cabourg, and we stayed there all summer with our Aunt Marthe, and our father made periodic showings for the odd weekend.
During the cold winter before this raw summer, I had developped an avid reading habit. To be frank, real life held very little attraction for me during this entire period: I was still missing my mother and my grandmother too much. I took no comfort from Aunt Marthe: I was far too aware of the fact that from May to December of 1944, I had been abandoned to strangers who ill-treated me terribly, and to the thought which carried the weight of reality as I perceived it, that I was the only person who had survived the bombing.
So that the discoverey, or revelation, in December, that both Aunt Marthe and Alain had also survived, and that she had taken Alain with her, left me with an abysmally deep mystery, why had no one ever come to check out how I was doing? Why hadn't anyone thought it important to come give me one hug and let me know I was not alone in the world, someone, somewhere loved me and we would one day be reunited?
I thought it was all my fault and that I was not loveable. It didn't exactly make me feel like reaching out.
Anyway, discovering the world of literature was the perfect solace: I loved reading, and when I stepped into a book the world became perfect, nothing was impossible, all pain became tolerable, nay, nonexistent, and I lacked for nothing.
Among my father's famous friends, in Deauville, was Leo Lax, who was known in his day for "Special Effects". As I remember it, he had a daughter about my age, maybe just a year or two older, I think I remember her name was Valerie. We didn't meet enough to become real friends, we were just both of us tagalongs with the grownups who met for their own pleasure, but she had a lot of books that I had not read, and she lent them to me, and I was happy and grateful.
I read a lot of books that summer published by the Bibliothèque Rose (the "Pink Library" for young girls, provided by Aunt Marthe) and the Bibliothèque Verte (the "Green Library" for young boys and girls somewhat older, provided by Valerie Lax). I remember my fascination for Edmond Rostand's Le Roi de la Montagne (The King of the Mountain), and all the Comtesse de Segur stories, I could not get enough of them.

In those early post-war days, I suppose paper was still fairly rare everywhere in Europe, so that books, newspapers and magazines were always in relatively short supply. But still during that time of hardship one weekly magazine was launched for girls, and it was called La Semaine de Suzette, Suzette's Weekly. It came out on Wednesdays and the rythm of my life swung on a joyous pendulum, from Wednesday to Wednesday.
I don't believe anything in my life has ever matched the sense of happy expectancy I associate with obtaining the new issue of La Semaine de Suzette each week. Even today, the mere mention of the name brings a huge grin to my face and a warm feeling of pleasure into my heart.
Things were not very sophisticated in those early days of recovery, and La Semaine de Suzette was not a glossy-covered, bound affair, filled with advertisements. In fact, I don't remember any advertisements at all.
La Semaine de Suzette was printed on several large sheets of regular newsprint, no photos, just line drawings, black and white only; these large sheets were folded into four and you started out by cutting the pages yourself, if you wanted to handle your copy by turning the pages over.
Naturally, Aunt Marthe would not let you use the sharp kitchen knife, she only allowed you access to a very unsharp, almost butterknife blunt knife, after which she berated you for a scruffy cut that was less than perfect. The knife? You say... A bad workman always blames his tools. You learnt to make a sharp crease with the back of your thumbnail, and to work out how to cut mutiple folds one at a time, carefully, patiently, so that you never tore an ugly gash across a part of the text. This difficulty of access to the contents built a head of steam on the excitement of opening a new issue.
When you had properly cut your magazine, the next decision to be made was: which sequel to read first. La Semaine de Suzette operated on the simple formula of several parallel cliffhangers! Then also, every week there would be a new, stand alone story of one sort or another.
In that childhood of mine, La Semaine de Suzette always satisfied, never disappointed. I truly believe it is the reason I grew up halfway normal. I also remember it had a serial about children a little older than myself, teenagers old enough to have experienced the German occupation with a great deal more awareness than mine, and this serial story fascinated me even more than the ones which told more familiar tales appropriate to my age group, as they enabled me to process and reevaluate some of my own experiences, which I would otherwise not have been able to assimilate, since there was no one around me at the time with whom I could have discussed what were for me events of tremendous significance, carrying unimaginable pain and regrets.
La Semaine de Suzette was my secret garden and my fortress.
As they remember it, it rained all summer in Normandy for everyone except me. Despite the memory of the cold bathings on that mined, windswept beach, it never rained on me: I had the best time of my life and I mainly remember that weather and that miserably cold climate because everyone else has told me so often what it was like that I have finally adopted the opinion of the majority.
In my inner heart, it glows forever with the tremendous sunshine of La Semaine de Suzette.

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