Hannibal Free Public Library



January 16, 2008

Published in 1944, Gigi is a novella by the French writer Colette.  It is about a wealthy cultured man of fashion who discovers he is in love with a young Parisian girl being groomed for a career as a courtesan.  Eventually they marry. 

Colette was the pen name of the French novelist Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette Goudeket (January 28, 1873 – August 3, 1954). She published around 50 novels, many with autobiographical elements. Critics divide her work and life into four phases: the Claudine novels, life in the theater, the politics of love, and reminiscences of youth and family. Dominant themes of her writing include the difficulty of reconciling a woman’s struggle for independence and self-realization with the insistent demands of physical passion and the inevitable requirements of adult relationships.   Her last novel and arguably her most popular, Gigi, was made into a Broadway play and a highly successful Hollywood motion picture.

 Discussion Questions 

1.      Although critically acclaimed, Colette resisted labels, and her ouevre is difficult for scholars to specify.  Is she a feminist writer?  A modernist?  A woman’s writer?  Characteristically French? 

  1. Colette used diminutives for many of her titles:  Minne, Mitsou, Chéri, Gigi.  What do these endearments tell us about her books?  Would her books benefit from more substantial titles today?
  1. Does Gigi have anything to say today about relationships between men and women, or is it now just a quaint look at an earlier era?
  1. I read Gigi as a young teen in the late 1960s, and it influenced my world view.  Would you give Gigi to a young teenager to read today?  Why or why not?
  1. Colette said, “A happy childhood is poor preparation for human contacts.”  Has Gigi’s childhood been happy?  Is she prepared for an adulthood of human contact?


  1. Colette said, “There is no need to waste pity on young girls who are having their moments of disillusionment, for in another moment they will recover their illusion.” Do Colette’s own words summarize the theme of the novel?  Why or why not?

7.      Comment on one reviewer’s summation of an earlier novel:  “…the relationship between the older man and the innocent girl is a study of the irregular and sometimes sordid friendships of the protagonist with women.”  (www.bookrags.com)  How can the comment also apply to Gigi?   

  1. Compare/contrast the Gigi as portrayed by Hepburn in the Hollywood film with the Gigi whom Colette created as a character.   Why do you think Colette selected Hepburn to play the role?


  1. Consider this quote from Colette:  “A pretty little collection of weaknesses and a terror of spiders are our indispensable stock-in-trade with the men.”  Discuss the inherent irony between the actual way Gigi and the other women live and their manners of studious refinement.  Are their manners affected or appropriate?
  1. Colette said, “I love my past, I love my present. I am not ashamed of what I have had, and I am not sad because I no longer have it.”  She also said, “One keeps forgetting old age up to the very brink of the grave.”  Think about the women in the novel.  How do these statements apply to them?
  1. Gigi is a very short novel.  Would it have benefited from more detail and therefore more length? 


Sources:  Wikipedia, http://www.bookrags.com/shortguide-gigi/, http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/s/sidonie_gabrielle_colette.html, http://home.sprynet.com/~ditallop/colette.htm