La Petite Fille de Monsieur Linh by Philippe Claudel
I started this book on Saturday and finished it on Monday; a very quick read and there are lots of chapters that will work well with the AP French themes and that my other classes will enjoy. However, if you want to read this book for your own enjoyment or share it with your students, I would caution that as lovely as the book is for the first 160 pages or so, the last several chapters (especially the last!) were incredibly disappointing for me. There is a rather large plot twist, and while its very well constructed, I was not happy at all with the turn of events. I’m a sensitive soul and when my expectations are thus ignored, I feel let down and I will not recommend reading this book in its entirety to my students. But just because I don’t like the ending, doesn’t mean I can’t share the parts I do like with my students!
Chapter 1: In the first chapter, we meet Monsieur Linh who is fleeing his war torn country (perhaps Vietnam) and arriving in France with the only other surviving member of his family Sang Diû, his granddaughter. I would use this chapter to discuss three AP themes: La quête de soi, les défis mondiaux, and la famille et la communauté. We learn about Monsieur Linh’s life before the voyage, how the war changed everything, and how he starts to adjust to a life in a different country with his granddaughter. I would love to read this chapter with my AP students in March or April so that we could review themes that we’ve already discussed and see how so much of what we’ve learned ties so neatly together. I would consider assigning different discussion topics to my students, selected either by them or me, and entertaining their brief presentations during class. I would hope they would be able to talk about immigration, customs, travel, war and peace, and nationalism.
Chapiter 2: this chapter would work especially well with the theme of community. The narration introduces us to Monsieur Linh’s living arrangements in France and how he responds to his new environment. My favorite part is the last two pages of the chapter when Monsieur Linh thinks about his village and how very different his new home is from his old one. That could tie in nicely to a discussion about beliefs and value systems as well. I would use this chapter to help student work on their own comparisons to prepare them for the presentational speaking during the AP exam. I would ask to students to imagine a similar set of circumstances, perhaps going abroad to study, and ask them to present some images from their former life and their new surroundings as part of their work.
Chapter 8: This is not the first chapter with Monsieur Bark, but I would love to share the gift-giving portion of this chapter with my students. The beginning of the chapter is less useful to this lesson plan, so I would start about 3 pages in. If you don’t read chapter 3 with your students, you might want to prepare a brief synopsis of Monsieur Bark and Monsieur Linh’s first meeting so that they are familiar with Monsieur Bark and what he represents for Monsieur Linh. These two men each find such comfort in someone who doesn’t even speak the same language; I think that chapter 8 would be excellent to read along with the theme of friendship in family and community.
Chapter 10 also explores a bit more the theme of war, but I would probably stick with chapter 1 to start that discussion with my students. If my students appreciate this book, I would direct them to this website: https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Petite_Fille_de_Monsieur_Linh and ask them to pick another chapter to read and present to the class. The more distance I have from the book, the more I appreciate it, so perhaps I’ll recommend it to someone someday!