About the Author
Emilie was born in 1900 in a poor home in one of the poorest regions in France. It was very rare for her and her time that she became literate and was successful that she went on to become a teacher. For decades she used to write her own stories in her notebooks and when the right time came she turned her contents into an autobiography. She told her tale to a publisher Robert Dastenque in the time of her sickness who worked with his writing and the tapes recorded of her story to write this book.
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Emilie Carles wrote this autobiography book “A Life of Her Own” about the courage of a woman who made a huge difference in her society. This book was translated to English in 1988. The reader of this book is totally inspired by the life of Emilie Carles who lives a life in a small village on a mountain in France by the name of Val de Pres in between the two World wars. Emilie describes her village as a land of the mountain people who were unaware of everything but death, work and sickness.
Emilie led a successful and fulfilled life. Emilie led an honest life and made a difference in the life of other people. She didn’t live a life of fame and wealth but stood up for things for which she believed in.
Emilie’s strength came when she was just a child. Tragedy first struck when her mother died when she was very young. Emilie lived with her father, Joseph and four siblings of which three were older (one sister and two brothers) and a younger sister.
Her father Joseph Carles was a hard man towards life and not towards his children. He used to set his own ways and was a worker who was a driven sort. Emilie wrote about her father that he was a charitable, good and generous man who had a good heart. Later in her book she wrote that he was not affectionate as he should have been. Joseph had a life, which was no different from the other poor people of the village. He was living a poor, tough life.
Emilie writes that most of the things her father believed or did was all for the good for his children. He was a committed father and had a warm relationship with his children. All of her brothers and sisters at different times went away which left Emilie the only one who stayed near her father and her home. Later on she brought her husband to the village and raised her children there and also the children of her younger sister.
Emilie married a very passionate anti war person. Her love for peace influenced by her husband and also by her brother many years ago who served in the army in WW1. Emilie went on to become a schoolteacher. She was the child out of her siblings who was given permission by her father to carry on her studies. She served in different villages but later on she was given a job in her own village.
This book is mostly about the hard life of Emilie. She tried to help her father in her village. It was in her destiny to care for her father and her home. In assessing her life Emilie is honest, she writes about her self that she has never lived a young life. At first it was the deaths in the war, everyone left and the only thing she knows is work and trouble.
But her story does have love and hope. When coming back from her younger sister’s place, Emilie meets the man whom she eventually marries. Jean Carles listened very carefully to what Emilie had to say about sacrificing everything for her family. The answer she gets was probably the most loving phrase, Jean Carles says that she has every right to live a life of her own and he will take care of all her problems.
Emilie describes living her life with Jean Carles as the happy years. She thought of her him as a very attentive husband and very considerate who would do anything to please her. She than says that all of the earths gifts were given to her. He would give all the warmth he could give and gave all the gifts. Jean Carles was not a wealthy man, according to Emilie the only wealth he had was a smile which had all the promises, a head which had all the dreams and a heart which had the most goodness she had ever seen.
Jean and Emilie during their marriage transformed the family estate into a better place. Though they had a meager income out of which most of the income came from the school teaching job, which Emilie had. Most of the guests who used to come to their house were anti war people like they were.
These antiwar movements led them into the WWII. Because of these movements, at one time she had to leave her estate and hide into the mountains to keep away from being arrested for the anti war movements which she didn’t want to share with anyone.
This book speaks about the power of the women who lived much ahead of her time. She never claimed to be a feminist in the book but the fact that she lived a hard life and the battles she chooses to fight shows that she was a woman who led a life of her own.
Emilie Carles, A life of her own, published by Penguin (1992)
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