I love France #51: Book review: Syncopation


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A Memoir of Adèle Hugo



240 pages

Published April 20th 2012 by Cornerstone Press
ISBN 0984673997 (ISBN13: 9780984673995)

Paperback received from the author


This book counts for the following Reading Challenges:

     hf-reading-challenge-2013     New Authors 2013



Rating system

Last Tuesday, I reviewed a historical novel on Victor Hugo and his daughter Léopoldine. And here is another one! Both books start from the same fact: Victor Hugo’s daughter, Léopoldine, drowned in a boat accident shortly after her wedding.

The parallel stops here. Just as Victor was deeply shocked by his loss, Léopoldine’s sister, Adèle, was also inconsolable. She does not seem to have really enjoyed her father’s séances where he tried to connect with his dead daughter, but Adèle seems to have been nevertheless very perturbed by the death of her very close sister. She soon started to show signs of mental illness and was eventually sent to a facility around Paris.

In this semi memoir semi historical novel, Adèle writes her own journal. At the end of many chapters, she communicates in imagination with Léopoldine, who reacts to her sister’s writing. In reality, Adèle did keep a diary for several years. Here we see her rewriting her life and events as she wishes to present them, not necessarily as they really happened.

Adèle’s free spirit clashed with the mentality of her time and the conservatism of her own father. We see her resisting the obligation to get married, her desire to get her music compositions published, all things not acceptable for a young lady of the time.

By the way, the title of the book sounds to me perfect to convey what happened to Adèle, using a technical term pertaining to her dear world of music.

I found the style of the book very charming and innovative, in the way it mixes history and fiction, sanity and madness, friendship and passion, and in the way Adèle’s voice was presented.

I enjoyed very much the depth and simplicity of the writing, where each word seems to have been very carefully selected.

It is also an interesting window on the Hugo’s family: Victor’s tough character, his political activities, his unfaithfulness to his wife, as well as hers, and the connections between their children. I had no idea that Adèle went even to Barbados, in the midst of a tempestuous relationship. And she did.

If you love the French classics and especially Victor Hugo, I highly recommend you to read this little unexpected gem, a great way of adding to your knowledge of this great author and his time.


 In nineteenth-century France, a woman’s role was explicitly defined: she was a daughter, then a wife, then a mother. This view was held by novelist and poet Victor Hugo, but not by his daughter, pianist and poet Adèle Hugo. Under such constraints, what’s a woman of passion to do? Syncopation, by Elizabeth Felt, breathes life into the unconventional thoughts of this controversial female figure. An elderly Adèle recounts her desperate attempts to gain personal freedom. Her memoir blurs the fine line between truth and madness, in a narrative that is off-kilter, skewed… syncopated [Goodreads]


Elizabeth Caulfield Felt

“In addition to writing, I teach English part-time at the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point.

Before becoming a teacher, I worked for many years as a librarian: for a university (WSU), for a legislature (LA) and for a newspaper (Indpls Star).

Doing research is a lot like being a detective, and I enjoyed my time as a reference librarian. As a historical novelist, I combine my book fixation with my talent at finding obscure (but informative and authoritative!) internet sites.

I love to travel and have lived in Indiana, France, Indiana, California, Colorado, Louisiana, Idaho, Washington, Wisconsin, Germany and Wisconsin (in that order).

I’m an avid reader of nearly all genres and for all ages.  Currently, I teach a course on Children’s Literature, which allows me to read a lot of excellent kids’ books and call it work!

I enjoy working with writers, leading workshops, and talking with school children.  Please contact me at elizabethcfelt at gmail.com if you’d like me to visit your bookstore, classroom, or conference.”

This was copied from her own blog. Please visit, she has for instance an interesting interview of Victor Hugo!


Goodreads readers




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5 thoughts on “I love France #51: Book review: Syncopation

  1. Pingback: 2013 – Books on France challenge – My list | Words And Peace

  2. Pingback: Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2013 | Words And Peace

  3. Pingback: Top Ten Underrated Books | Words And Peace

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