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Welcome to Clochemerle
on 19 September 2014
I was more than happy to find a kindle edition of this book as I haven’t read it for years, but I could still remember that this was a good read. Coming back to this years later I find that it is still well worth reading, and am thus glad that I nominated it for my local book group.
The story opens in late 1922 on the outskirts of the town Clochemerle, a small picturesque town in the Beaujolais area of France. The mayor discusses with his assistant a plan that he has to build a public urinal for the town, an idea that seems perfectly harmless. Thus we leap into 1923 with the unveiling of this urinal, but although a relatively smooth ceremony is carried through, how long before someone puts a spanner in the works?
As we read through this we find out more about Clochemerle and its more celebrated residents, along with the jealousies, gossip, and sexual shenanigans that go on. Gabriel Chevallier weaves a very funny, satirical and highly entertaining tale about what goes on in Clochemerle. With one woman complaining that the urinal, situated near the church is lowering the morals of the town people start to become divided into a for or against feeling towards the toilet. As the heat sets in in the summer of 1923 and the inhabitants imbibe more than usual of their local produce things are bound to come to a head. With fighting in the church, rioting and even the Government sending in troops will Clochemerle ever be the same again?
With lovely illustrations and a story that will make you laugh out loud you can’t really go wrong with this. Although written by a Frenchman in places this does feel quite Wodehousian, which is probably why it has always been quite popular over here. There was a TV series made of this for the BBC in the early Seventies which I have been led to believe is now available on DVD, so although I haven’t yet looked for it, it should also be available on this site.