This iteration of the Claudine series lacks the poetry and incandescence of ‘Claudine’s House. This could be due to the fact that whereas the latter was focused on the childhood of Claudine and her sense of wonder at the world around her, this one acts as a coming of age novel, one where the heroine is beginning to enter adulthood and integrate with the world around her, as well as understanding all of the bitterness and disillusion which comes with it. Indeed, the novel is at times over-laden with what her rather asinine husband would define as being ‘spiciness’, or, as they appear in the novella, cheap and trite sexualized scenes masquerading as being ‘risque’; a product as much of her husband’s philistine sensibilities than any of Colette’s artistic style.
The novella follows Claudine just as she moves to Paris with her eccentric father; Paris is seen as a behemoth which threatens to swallow the naive, yet independent and slightly insouciant, country-girl Claudine whole. The vast labyrinth of the Parisian streets belies a sense of emptiness and coldness which shocks the sensibilities of a girl who was enamoured by the forests and ponderous life of her adolescence. However, in other ways, Paris acts as the catalyst which awakens Claudine out of her slumber; from introducing her to the latest arts and fashions, to the vast array of characters who populate the story.
From her effeminate great-nephew Marcel, who acts as her first introduction to homosexuality, to the glitz and glamour represented by her aunt as well as her burgeoning sexuality as represented by her eventual elopement with Renaud, the biggest difference between this and her earlier novels it that the focus on this is people and the curiosity they evoke in Claudine, meaning the novel focuses of psychology over nature, losing, perhaps, some of the poetry of the earlier stories, but gaining a sense of humanity.