An interesting theme on being at the margin of society, by Mme de Duras, based on a true story.,
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This review is from: Ourika (French Edition) (Kindle Edition)
This is a novella tackling the theme of other nations being incorporated into French society towards the end of the 18th century, and what it meant to those individuals. This was a prevalent theme around the beginning of the 19th century, tackled by many other writers including Chateaubriand.
Ourika was brought to France by French settlers in the Senegal, and was adopted by a well to do French lady, who had two sons of her own. She received the best of education and had access to high society. She acquired various literary and artistic skills, and thought she fitted well within that society. That is until she realised one day after overhearing a conversation about her that she is not destined to partake in what that society had to offer its members simply because of her origins and the colour of her skin. As a result of that sudden shock, she turned against that very milieu in which she was raised, felt detached from it all, and was unable to interact or engage, and became an isolated unhappy figure, feeling the pain and the chagrin. She thought the French Revolution would get rid of all these prejudices only to be disappointed. It was only her devotion to her brother Charles that kept her going and gave her hope of some affections, not realising that she was in fact in love with him. Only when he got married to a French girl of his nature and his rank, and had a child, did it dawn on Ourika that she was lost for ever, unable to share in the normal things of life which bring joy, she would never be called Mother, or have a family of her own, and wished if they had only left her behind in her original country, though a slave, at least she would have felt happier among people like her. Finally she realises that happiness lies in giving to others and in serving the wishes of our creator, and she takes the veil.
The novella is well written in its depiction of the emotional and psychological struggles of Ourika. However it does not give an in depth background about her upbringing in France, but only takes off from the time she reaches early adulthood.