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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


A Little Girl
under a Mosquito Net

Monique Lange

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase A Little Girl under a Mosquito Net

Title: A Little Girl under a Mosquito Net
Author: Monique Lange
Genre: Novel
Written: 1972 (Eng. 1973)
Length: 119 pages
Original in: French
Availability: A Little Girl under a Mosquito Net - US
A Little Girl under a Mosquito Net - UK
A Little Girl under a Mosquito Net - Canada
Une petite fille sous une moustiquaire - Canada
Une petite fille sous une moustiquaire - France
  • French title: Une petite fille sous une moustiquaire
  • Translated by Patsy Southgate

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Our Assessment:

B : fine if slim memoir

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The NY Times Book Rev. . 28/10/1973 Martin Levin

  • "In a style that is always frank, fresh and lively, like a small but intelligent girl trying to explain puzzling things to herself" - James Kirkup, The Independent (4/12/1996)

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       A Little Girl under a Mosquito Net is billed on the cover (of the American edition) as a novel but sits squarely in the French autofiction tradition -- with far more emphasis on the auto(biographical) than any fiction.
       Monique Lange's parents divorced when she was three and she was raised by her grandmother before being sent off to join her mother and step-father in Saigon in 1939, just before the start of World War II. Born in a Jewish family, she was far more drawn to Catholicism and the Christian god -- and determined to convert as soon as she could (which her family would not permit until she turned eighteen). (Wanting to fit in in 1930s France she also admits: "I desperately wanted to be tricolored and blond.")
       She had a very privileged and protected childhood:

I didn't know anything. Poverty reached me through Andersen's Fairy Tales, trouble through Perrault's Fairy Tales, and God from heaven knows where.
       In Saigon she is again removed and protected from much of the turmoil elsewhere, and also doesn't immediately grasp even the local and obvious -- such as the fact that her parents indulge in opium (which, as a friend tells her, the whole town is aware of). And, while (innocently) lusting after the older boys, she doesn't succumb to the exoticism of the Orient:
     I hated Indochina, green and odorous. I hated exoticism. The Orient horrified me, I was born for the West and its falling leaves.
       At eighteen she is finally able to embrace the religion she had so long longed for -- "Finally I would be like everyone else, and my joy equaled my martyrdom" -- but it's a hollow victory, the Church not offering the sanctuary she had envisioned, the sense of belonging never truly achieved simply through ritual imitation. And only back in post-war Paris does she come to understand:
     I discovered the real Jewish Martydom [sic] instead of the one I had made up for myself. All those people had died simply because they were Jews, while I had been making such a fuss not to be one any more.
       Lange is neither cruel nor nostalgic about the naïve and: "fake lost little girl that I was", simply recognizing that her immaturity was deeper and lasted longer than for most. Even in early adulthood she admits: "I tried to find in books what I was not yet able to find in life". Release, however, only comes when she finally overcomes her "mystical flirtation", as she then finds:
I was Jewish. I was pagan. And I was free.
       A Little Girl under a Mosquito Net is a sketch of growing up, done with deceptive ease. Lange goes into little detail, yet conveys her innocent and ignorant girlish self and her slow maturation very well. More summary than comprehensive biography, it is nevertheless both very open and thorough in the picture it presents, and very agreeable in tone.

- M.A.Orthofer, 1 December 2011

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Monique Lange:
  • Obituary by James Kirkup in The Independent
Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of French literature

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About the Author:

       French author and editor Monique Lange lived 1926 to 1996; she was also the wife of Juan Goytisolo.

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© 2011 the complete review

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