Monday, August 8, 2016

The Fair of St. James

The Fair of St. James, by Eleanor Farjeon

It's hard for me to describe exactly what it was that Eleanor Farjeon did.  She's a little odd.  She wrote fairy tales, really; mostly for children, but sometimes for grownups.  And they're fairy tales with a particular light and airy quality; usually English, but with a French flair.  A few times, she mentions Watteau in her stories, and I think that's a clue--she wrote stories that could be painted by Watteau.  She also loves to put stories within stories, and sometimes will produce a book structured like the Decameron or Canterbury Tales.

Pilgrimage to Cythera, 1717, by Watteau
The Fair of St. James is certainly a fairy tale for grownups.  Laura and her husband Jimmy are touring France, and they stop in an enchanting country town.  A nearby deserted field has a gate that says "Foire St. Jacques," and that evening, Laura enters the Fair -- which hasn't existed for years -- and also searches for Jacques Coeur, who has left France and shall not return until a pink rose turns blue.  There she meets a beggar who is the King of France, a waiter who has invented a drink that will cure broken hearts (except his own), and many others who tell their stories.  It's all as frothy and light as Pirouet's tangerine drink, but it isn't made of sugar.  It's a lovely escape into fairyland for a day.


I don't know why the title of the book is St. James instead of St. Jacques.  At no point in the actual text do you ever see a St. James, and it doesn't give you the right idea at all.



3 comments:

Literary Feline said...

English with a flair of French. I like the sound of that. I also really like the premise. I so rarely read older books nowadays, which is really a shame. There are so many old treasures to discover out there.

Faith said...

I went to a Catholic grade school and we used the same readers that Seton Home study has reprinted. Eleanor Farjeon is a standard. You read at least one something by her in every level, probably starting in 3rd grade. I have never read anything by her aimed at adults!

Jean said...

Really? That's so cool! I used to look longingly through Seton catalogs, but I never knew that Farjeon was featured so consistently.