My Mother's Castle

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This article is about the novel. For the film, see My Mother's Castle (film).
My Mother's Castle
Author Marcel Pagnol
Original title Le Château de ma mère
Translator Rita Barisse
Country France
Language French
Series Souvenirs d'enfance
Genre Autobiographical novel
Publisher Pastorelly
Publication date

My Mother's Castle (French: Le Château de ma mère) is a 1957 autobiographical novel by Marcel Pagnol, the second in the four-volume series Souvenirs d'enfance and the sequel to My Father's Glory. It was the subject of a film made by Yves Robert in 1990 which is faithful to the original plot but which includes material from the third book in the four-novel series, Le Temps des Secrets.

Plot summary[edit]

The following plot summary is of the film, which differs significantly from the book. (A detailed summary of the actual text of Pagnol's novel can be accessed by clicking the External Link to David Barfield's Blogsite at the bottom of this page)

Following the summer holiday which features in La gloire de mon père, the family returns to Marseilles but Marcel still yearns for the hills. His wish is granted when they return for the Christmas holiday, much to Marcel's delight. Although only a few kilometers outside Marseilles, the journey to the holiday home is time consuming as public transport takes them a short portion of the way and the rest is a walk along a long, winding road.

Marcel then tells of an encounter with a girl, Isabelle. He meets her whilst exploring the countryside of the Provence with Lili, and they plan to meet at her house in the future to play. On his first visit to her house, he meets her father and mother, who are both very eccentric. Isabelle herself is also a bit strange, always dressing up in different dresses, and demanding Marcel to dress up as a dog, a soldier, or other things at various times. When they play, Isabelle commands Marcel around to do various things. At one point, she tells him to close his eyes and open his mouth. She then feeds him a grasshopper. Lili and Paul, Marcel's younger brother, observe this, and they report it to Marcel's father. He then forbids Marcel to continue meeting "with that crazy girl". Marcel later observes the departure of Isabelle and her family.

One day, when travelling to their house, the family encounters one of Marcel's father's former pupils, Bouzigue, who now works in maintaining a canal which runs from the hills into Marseilles. The canal runs across private estates and so he is issued with a key which allows him to pass through several locked doors along the towpath. The employee points out to the family that this is a shortcut which will allow them to reach their house in a fraction of the journey time and offers them his spare key. Marcel's father, being honest and upright realises that this would amount to trespassing. He nevertheless accepts the key after much persuasion from his family for use in an emergency.

Despite his reservations, the family use the key more and more and the reduced journey time allows them to visit the holiday home every weekend. They still have an apprehension each time they unlock a door fearing they will be caught. As time passes, however, they encounter the owner of one property and the groundsman of another, who are friendly and quite happy that they cross their land.

At the beginning of the summer holidays they make the journey again and Marcel's mother feels a great fear and trepidation of meeting the owner. When they reach the final door they discover it has been padlocked. They are confronted by the caretaker of the final property who has been watching them for some time and who decides to make an official report.

Marcel's father is devastated, believing a complaint could damage his career prospects and he could possibly lose his job as a school teacher. The employees of the canal however, confront the caretaker threatening him with prosecution for having unlawfully padlocked one of the company's doors. The caretaker withdraws his complaint against Marcel's family and the matter is concluded. During the ordeal between the canal workers and the caretaker they take the padlock, put it around the gate, and feed the key to his dog so he can't leave the estate.

The epilogue mentions that uncle Jules hired a carriage for the family. The film jumps 10 years to the future, telling of the death of Marcel's mother. It also tells of Lili and Paul: Paul was a goatherd in the countryside of the Provence, until his sudden death at the age of 31. Lili is killed in 1917, during the First World War. Marcel is the only one left of their childhood company, now a successful film director. His company has purchased a large old house in the Marseilles area to turn into a film studio. When walking through the grounds he sees a familiar door and realizes that this is the last property on his childhood journey to his holiday home. In a burst of rage he picks up a rock and smashes the door and thus ends a bad spell.

External links[edit]