The Christmas gift guide for Francophiles

Few days ago I went to the Distillery Christmas market and realized that Christmas will be upon us in 38 days… yes, they put a huge countdown at the entrance and you cannot miss it!!! As you read these words, you have even less time left so it’s time for you to think about gifts. If you have Francophiles around, this gift guide is going to help you.

Ma P’tite Culotte, women’s lingerie

Offering a new set of lingeries to a woman you love is always a good idea. Ma P’tite Culotte is a French brand that offers an optimistic and enthusiastic line of lingeries. For her last collection, Charline Goutal decided to create pieces that correspond to women’s moods.

Available on Ma Ptite Culotte website

Le Slip Français, French underpants

The founders of this underwear brand believe that companies can no longer just be economic forces with a narrow sense of purpose; they must, instead, define and pursue certain values. Their definition of success includes the well-being of those around them and the sustainability of their business: “You want to change the world? Start by changing your briefs.”

Available on Le Slip Français website

MAGNETHIK ethical handbags

MAGNETHIK is a brand founded by Fabienne Pomi, a French, vegan fashion lover who offers made in France and vegan handbags. All the pieces are made without any animal products and according to an ecological and ethical process. MAGNETHIK has been voted “Best Fashion Novelty” by the PETA association in 2016.

Available at Importation Lou

Chapon chocolates

Patrice Chapon is one of seven French bean-to-bar chocolate makers. His know-how is internationally recognized — he just got two awards from Salon du Chocolat in Paris.

Available on Chapon website and in Toronto at McEwan Don Mills and TD Centre Location.

Red wine

A Francophile will always appreciate a glass of good red wine. This gift is probably the safest — you cannot go wrong with it. If you feel like offering a bottle of red wine to one of your relatives, I recommend this bottle of Château Vignot Saint Emilion, 2009. It goes perfectly with cheese.

Available at LCBO

To Foil a Plot in Utero: Ian McEwan’s Nutshell

Ian McEwan’s Nutshell

In Ian McEwan’s latest novel, Nutshell, a fetus in its third-trimester assumes the role of Hamlet as he bears witness to an affair between his mother, Trudy, and his uncle, Claude. The licentious pair plots to kill John, the father of the baby, who, following years of silent marital unhappiness, has been banished from his old childhood home in stately Hamilton Terrace to Shoreditch. He visits regularly and is put up with. Claude, too, visits regularly, stays overnight, scheming. Can the narrator stop the would-be murderers — or is he helplessly party to heinous patricide? If he cannot prevent the murder, can he avenge his father’s death?

The narrator of this compact and eerily convincing novel has the verbal skills of an old-timey aristocrat, a taste for trochees, an appreciation for Keats, a penchant for fine vintages, and a tendency to ruminate on the future of the world he will soon inherit. And what depressing projection that is in Trudy’s womb, often dangerously close to Claude’s penis inches from his nose.

Nutshell begins with the following epigraph from Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “Oh God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself king of infinite space — were it not that I have bad dreams.” And the fetus grows as he speaks and has plenty of bad forebodings that constrict him. Much like Hamlet, the novel turns on the fetus’s solipsism — both forced and self-induced — in the face of a murderous plot. John’s murder, like Claudius’s, is told offstage: what occupies the stage is the narrator’s existential struggle with the umbilical cord, the paradoxical amalgam of his genome, and, strangest of all, his desire to be born.

The novel is worthy of recognition if only for McEwan’s genius with the literary gymnastics necessary to bring the fetus — his all too reliable but often limited perspective — to life. The unusual perspective and McEwan’s knowledge of science intrigue time old questions of philosophy. “I’m immersed in abstractions, and only the proliferating relation between them create the illusion of a known world,” states the narrator. “…I am, or I was, despite what the geneticists are now saying, a blank slate. But a slippery, porous slate no schoolroom or a cottage roof could find use for, a slate that writes upon itself as it grows by the day and becomes less blank. I count myself an innocent, but it seems I’m party to a plot.”

In Act V, Hamlet returns to rotten state of Denmark and dies midst four bodies of varying degrees of culpability. Not so for our narrator, though he too tells his tale from a rotten “Georgian pile”. No spoilers here — let’s just say that our storyteller acts.

Ian McEwan is the author of Amsterdam (Man Booker Prize, 1998) and Atonement (National Book Critics Circle Award, 2002), among many others. Though best known for his novels, his prolific career includes plays, a libretto, screenplays, an oratorio, poetry, and short stories. McEwan has also written extensively on science, religion, and culture. Nutshell is his latest novel.