The Scents of Marie-Claire

READ THE WORLD – Tunisia: The Scents of Marie-Claire by Habib Selmi

Translated by Fadwa Al Qasem.

The story of the relationship between Marie-Claire, a French woman, and Mahfouth, a Tunisian man, from beginning to end as they live together in Paris.

The Scents of Marie-Claire is a short book at less than 180 pages and that’s probably a good thing as if it was longer, I may have given up on it. I did read it in two days but I did so while not liking the narrator at all. The Scents of Marie-Claire is written in first person point of view and Mahfouth is the narrator.

I think I’ve said before but I tend to find books from male characters point of view (especially when they’re written by men) a bit uncomfortable with how the male characters describe female characters and The Scents of Marie-Claire is no exception. As it’s from Mahfouth’s point of view, Marie-Claire often comes across as just an object for his desire and not a person with her own thoughts and opinions. When she says she doesn’t want sex or attention he takes it as a personal affront and feels she’s cruel for denying him and is doing to be purposefully hurtful, rather than maybe she didn’t feel like it or had a lot going on in her head. You never get anything from Marie-Claire’s point of view so it is easy for Mahfouth to paint her as a villain in their relationship.

A big selling point of The Scents of Marie-Claire is the culture clash between the two of them however this didn’t seem to be a huge thing to me. Yes, when you learn about their childhoods, they are very different but if anything it is Mahfouth’s general misunderstanding of women but also obsession with them that causes problems in their relationship. That could well be a typical aspect of Tunisian men in general that I’m unaware of rather than a specific character thing. He’s very self-conscious about their relationship and showing affection in public which could be a sign of him being more aware of their differences, though as I said, to me it seemed more likely because he was awkward about how he felt about sex and relationships.

The Scents of Marie-Claire is an odd reading experience as there’s a distance from Marie-Claire so I never really felt like I knew or understood her as a character. Meanwhile, you’re in Mahfouth’s head so much that it isn’t an enjoyable reading experience as I didn’t like what he was thinking and feeling. 1/5.

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Autumn 2021 TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme is what books we’d like to read over the next few months. I love setting a vague TBR and then seeing whether or not I actually get to them any time soon.

The City Where Dreams Come True by Gulsifat Shahidi
A collection of four short stories about Tajikistan’s civil war and the effect it had on the people. I have The City Where Dreams Come True and The Cost of Sugar on Kindle Unlimited and as I don’t really use that service much it’d be good to read them soon as then I can unsubscribe from it.

The Cost of Sugar by Cynthia McLeod
The Cost of Sugar has definitely been on more than one TBR but maybe now is the time to finally read it? It follows two Jewish stepsisters, Elza and Sarith, descendants of the settlers and their pampered existences become intertwined with the fate of the plantations as the slaves decide to fight against the violent repression they have endured for too long.

Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo
I read and really enjoyed King of Scars earlier this month so Rule of Wolves is definitely one I want to get to ASAP. I have the audiobook but might get the ebook too as I’m not sure which way I want to read it.

The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid
I got The Wolf and the Woodsman via Illumicrate a few months ago and the cover is one that really stood out to me. Like many books on my TBR I don’t know much about it but I think it’s got a creepy forest and a fairy tale vibe – both are things I tend to enjoy.

Armenian Golgotha by Grigoris Balakian
This is a bit of an intimidating book as it’s a chunky non-fiction about a country’s genocide and it probably will be a book I need to take time with as it’s such a heavy topic.

The Scents of Marie-Claire by Habib Selmi
My Tunisia book for the Read the World Project, The Scents of Marie-Claire tells the story of the extraordinary relationship between the Tunisian-born narrator and the French Marie-Claire

A Spare Life by Lidija Dimkovska
A Spare Life has been on one of my seasonal TBR’s before and I did start it but didn’t get too far into it so would actually like to finish it.

Terciel and Elinor by Garth Nix
I love the Old Kingdom series so am really looking forward to the latest instalment and am interested to see what this prequel adds to the story. I reread Sabriel last month for the first time since 2015 and will be continuing rereading the series until Terciel and Elinor is released in November.

The Desert and the Drum by Mbarek Ould Beyrouk
The Desert and the Drum is the first novel ever to be translated into English from Mauritania and is about a woman who leaves her tribe and tries to find her own path.

Chaka by Thomas Mofolo
Chaka is a mythic fictional retelling of the story of the rise and fall of the Zulu emperor-king Shaka.

What books are you hoping to read soon?