When French author Gabrielle Dubois asked to become my Goodreads Friend, I took a look at her work to see if it interested me. This is the criterion that I use for authors on Goodreads. I noticed that she had a historical novel that had been translated to English that looked like it had potential. I purchased it from Amazon though I didn't have time to review it at that point.
As I expected, Dubois eventually requested a review of her novel that was translated under the title of Mistress Mine. She also offered to provide me with a review copy. I responded that I had already purchased it, and that I was glad to have the translation because it has been some time since I read anything in French. She then wanted to send me the original French edition to improve my French reading skills. I told her that was very generous and scheduled a review.
I had already begun reading Mistress Mine when Sous Les Eucalyptus Deuxième partie (second part) arrived in the mail. I noted that this French volume started at chapter 35. I had only reached chapter 25 in the translation at that point. So I had time to plan how I was going to handle my reading of the French version in relation to my reading of the translation. I examined a page at random and noticed that I didn't find the French very difficult. I had read a number of untranslated French classics as an undergraduate and had retained more French vocabulary than I realized. I found that I could read most of the page without referring to my French dictionary. This was good news because it meant that the project of improving my French reading skills would probably be a great success. I decided that my best strategy would be to read the translated version of a chapter and then follow it up with reading the same chapter in the original. This meant that when I encountered French words that were new to me, I could refer to my memory of the translation to decipher their meaning before looking them up in the dictionary. This process would assist me in learning and retaining more French vocabulary. Every chapter became easier to read than the previous one. I definitely recommend this method to anyone who wants to improve their French.
Since this is actually supposed to be a review of Mistress Mine I had better get on with it.
I would categorize Mistress Mine as a historical romance. I considered it far less stereotypical than most examples of this genre. Louise St. Quentin, the 19th century French protagonist, exhibits character growth. She eventually comes to understand what she really wants from a relationship. Fans of this genre need to understand that there is a sequel. This means that there isn't quite as much of a resolution as they might prefer. The ending may seem abrupt to romance readers.
In some respects, Louise St. Quentin reminded me of George Sand. I read and reviewed a couple of biographical novels about George Sand. Unfortunately, Gabrielle Dubois' heroine cared far too much about what people thought of her unconventional life. I often wished Louise were more like George Sand. Perhaps when she is fully mature, Louise will be a woman who I would find more inspirational.
Based on the portion of the French original edition that I read, I thought that translator Jane Hentgès did an excellent job. She was true to the essence of the text which is what I consider to be the hallmark of a successful translation.