Colette is a fascinating woman and I am very excited to read a biography of hers that I am waiting to come in through library loan. She performed at Moulin Rouge, wrote erotic literature in the early 1900's, had an affair with her stepson, and hid some of her Jewish friends in her attic during World War II.
The Innocent Libertine is really two short novels, Minne and Les Egarements de Minne, that Colette combined after they had been published separately. They go together beautifully into one long arc for Minne.
In Minne, she starts as a young women who lives a very rich inner life. She lives with her mother in Paris and becomes obsessed with a gang of street thugs. Their leader, Curly, is the main object of her affection and she creates a great love between them in her mind without ever speaking to him. Every action she takes has such importance in to her every noise outside is just one step closer to bringing her and Curly together. When he disappears, she becomes ill and they go to the country with her uncle and cousin.
"She felt herself on the threshold of another life, on the verge of initiation into sacred mysteries."
There she spends her time lying fantastically and her cousin, Antoine, grows to desire her immensely. She dismisses him because to her she is already engaged to Curly (a man she had never spoken to). When she returns home, she leaves her house during the night to chase after Curly and gets a very harsh dose of reality. The Paris streets are not the place for a young girl.
In Les Egarements de Minnne, or Part Two, Minne is grown up some and married. Yet she is having a string of affairs in search of achieving an orgasm. Jealous of the sexual joy the men she sleeps with have, she believes that if she just finds the right man she will be able to feel the same. Her husband grows jealous and attempts to recreate her as the innocent girl he is in love with.
"After all, that boy is as nice as anything! He was dying of pleasure in my arms and there was I waiting and saying to myself: 'Obviously, it's not unpleasant... but show me something better!"
Colette is sexy and exciting without being smutty, even if there is a naked lady lounging on the cover. Minne's tale really is lovely and came to a very stratifying ending, if you catch my drift.