Colette once again provides an indirect comment on contemporary France. With Paris occupied and in the grip of war, readers of Colette’s Gigi are transported to a less complicated and painful time. Set in 1899, the story once again orchestrates a small but intimate cast of characters in a personal drama with a twist. The plot focuses on the “gamine” character of Gigi (a nickname for Gilberte), a young woman who has been reared by her grandmother and great-aunt to follow in their profession as a courtesan. They hope to make her the mistress of Gaston Lachaille, but Gigi instead becomes his wife. This conclusion introduces an ironic twist. In the conventional love story, the resolution of the plot through marriage is usually the desired outcome, but in Gigi marriage appears as a frustration rather than a fulfillment of plans. The story serves as a lighthearted reminder that the best laid plans may go astray, especially if love is involved.
In once again portraying the charm and humor of an independent and mischievous adolescent, Colette comes full circle in her career, ending her writing with a character very similar to the one who made her reputation, Claudine. It is through her ebullience and love of life that Gigi wins Gaston’s true affection, a message of optimism and faith in the power of love.