"Tita" by Marie Houzelle

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In Tita a highly precocious seven year-old girl grapples with the day-to-day issues of school, church, friendship, and family. She lives in a small town in southern France at mid-20th century, at a time when tradition and the Church face the pressure of change. This little girl reads Stendhal, Proust, and Herman Wouk, and while she doesn’t always comprehend every adult nuance, her reading gives her many insights unusual for one of such a tender age. Throughout the book she delivers this book’s main charm: her pithy, spot-on critiques not only of notable authors, but of the adult folly around her. 

As unlikely as all this sounds, Author Marie Houzelle successfully treads a fine line with this unique and endearing character: the young thing wrestles with the issues of childhood of course, but her keenly honest observations place her in two worlds: she’s seven, but she’s getting – and applying –  insights from some major prose artists.

Tita has a unique voice and viewpoint. She comes ingenuous to all situations, as only a seven year-old can. She faces issues typical for a schoolgirl: the prospect of staying in the same school with a horrid teacher; whether her family has enough money to stay in their house; the way her mother stretches the truth to serve her vanity; surviving a disastrous two weeks at camp. Through it all she delivers her obiter dicta so candidly, so incisively, that it achieves a lasting charm. Ms. Houzelle is to be congratulated. One might be tempted to doubt Tita’s ability to take cues from such advanced reading, but there’s never a time when it doesn’t work. Tita the character is perfect. Take up the book, by all means, and make her delightful acquaintance.

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