Thomas the Impostor by Jean Cocteau

Thomas the impostor by Jean Cocteau

French Fiction

Translated by Dorothy Willliams

This is another of my recent library haul ,I ve not read Cocteau but was aware of him  but hadn’t known he wrote this particular book .Thomas the imposter is set during the world war one ,I ve not read a french view on the first world war so was keen to get his take on the war .it opens in paris in 1914 ,the Government has left the city, we meet princess de bromes who is treating the wounded solders from the front line in her house ,she sets off to near the frontline  and a young boy Thomas de  Fontenoy joins the army even thou he was too young to he is assumed by mistake to be the relative of a famous general that share his surname he is sent with  the princesses  who  was caught by the fighting  as she was treating injured men and is  waning t to return to paris Thomas does this but then decides he want to see more of the action returning to a unit right on the front line in the trenches at a time when the battles are at their most violent .although he left behind the daughter of de Bromes that has fallen in love with him .if you want to find out what happens well read the book !

Now this book is in part based on Cocteau’s world war experiences he was a lot older than Thomas .when he survived at the front line  as a red cross ambulance driver serving with many fellow poets and writers  ,but sure Thomas is in some part based on some one he saw during the war it shows the horror of war like events  in Sasson and Graves books two of my favourite war books .

“Who are you ? ” asked Verne with his usual bluntness

“Guillaume Thomas de Fontenoy ” was the reply

“relative of general de Fontenoy ?”

The general was appearing in all the headlines all the time

“Yes his nephew ”

The reply took effect at once ,for the doctor always had his cross in mind .It was his guiding star .

Thomas lies about who he is when he joins a new unit

The book has a number of small pen sketches by Cocteau of  princess and Thomas are placed throughout the book  .On the back it says a coming of age story and it is a bit like catcher in the rye in respect of the fact  that Thomas is some one that has to grow in a hurry I would call it a war story more than coming of age ,but also it shows how names can effect Peoples destiny  ,love and loss and the horror of war and all this in 130 pages it shows Cocteau as a talented writer as well as artist and poet .I enjoyed this book I always thought Cocteau a little to high brow for my self but I will try him again after this one  .

Have you read Jean Cocteau ?

Do you have a favourite world war one book ?



17 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. parrish
    Sep 26, 2011 @ 13:24:00

    like yourself I was aware of Jean Cocteau, but more as a film maker & although knew he wrote poetry, haven’t got around to exploring him, which is quite strange, having read through the likes of Zola, France, Camus Sartre, Robbe-Grillet etc. – Oh well another for the list


    • winstonsdad
      Oct 03, 2011 @ 21:02:44

      I knew him more for films as well ,there are loads french writers out there and a lot not even in english that are huge in france lit scene ,all the best stu


  2. Emily Jane
    Sep 26, 2011 @ 14:43:03

    Looks good Stu…my favorite World War One book (so far, I haven’t read very many) is probably Regeneration by Pat Barker featuring the British war poets Sigfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. Luckily it’s the first in a trilogy and I have two more to go!


  3. obooki
    Sep 26, 2011 @ 19:41:22

    I’ve read Les Enfants Terribles and The Miscreant. Of the two, I liked Les Enfants Terribles a lot more.

    A personal opinion, no doubt, but I think he’s a better novelist than filmmaker.


  4. Anbolyn
    Sep 27, 2011 @ 02:36:37

    The plot sounds very intriguing – a coming of age story set during World War I just has to be fascinating!


  5. Nana Fredua-Agyeman
    Sep 27, 2011 @ 08:10:51

    I don’t think I have read war (WWI & WWII) stories and even if I had it might not have been the major setting. It’d be the least books I have read, if I’ve. I really need to catch up on these translations… yet, you fill me in a lot.


  6. Caroline
    Sep 27, 2011 @ 14:37:57

    I read quite a few books by Cocteau. Plays and novels, not this one though but I have it. I also liked Les Enfants Terribles a lot and La Machine Infernale.


  7. simon
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 14:11:13

    Sounds good stu will try and see if my library has a copy


  8. Tom Cunliffe
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 07:21:44

    I’ve never read Jean Cocteau although the name is familiar to me. I enjoy war stories and this looks like an unusual take – a French perspective on WW1. Great review – thanks for sharing


  9. Sandra
    Oct 07, 2011 @ 12:35:34

    I’ve read only one Cocteau, Diary of an Unknown. Not fiction but a collection of essays which I enjoyed immensely. The man wrote many things on many subjects and you get a taste of some of them from this book, which I can highly recommend. If my library had any of his fiction (lots of films and play but no novels) I’d definitely read it.
    I’m not one for war stories per se but Birdsong by Sebastian Faulk was very good, well received and won some awards. And there’s always the classic if you haven’t read it yet, All Quiet on the Western Front by Eric Maria Remarque.


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