Thursday, February 21, 2013

Les Malheurs de Sophie - The Books

In my previous post I wrote about the movie Les Malheurs de Sophie.  It was based on the famous novel written by La Comtesse de Ségur, a Russian aristocrat who married a Frenchman and later on wrote many novels in French dedicated to her grand-children (after whom she named all her book characters).

Photo Credit : Comtesse de Segur
The novel was first published in 1858 by Hachette with illustrations by Horace Castelli.  The adventures of Sophie is her most famous novel and is actually followed by 2 other books, forming a trilogy: Les Petites Filles Modèles (1858), and Les Vacances (1859).

Photo Credit : Library Mice
In French:
Volume 3 - Les Vacances
In English (translation by Stephanie Smee):
The English books are sold in Australia (but available worlwide via Booktopia) but I have not read them so I can't give you a review about them. But if you can't read French at all, they are the only English translation available to my knowledge. Please let me know if you find another version!

Photo Credit : Booktopia
The second book focuses on Camille and Madeleine but Sophie is still there. This novels introduces a new character, the little Marguerite, who is befriended by Camille and Madeleine and butts head with Sophie.  There is such a great camaderie among the characters and their adventures are riveting!  SPOILER: The story gets very sad at times though because Sophie is mistreated by her stepmother and I remember crying very much because the poor little girl was so unloved.

Photo Credit : Booktopia
The last novel in the trilogy is probably one of the best book I have read as a child.  There are many more characters added to the novel by now and our little girls have grown since the last two books.  If there could be a perfect summer vacation, this would be it.  It's like the tale of a summer camp vacation filled with adventures but set in the 19th century, in a French Castle.  It is really an amazing ending to the serie and it gave me a lasting impression of the story.

There have been many editions of this book and the two sequels, including a comic book version.  Other books from La Comtesse de Ségur are also available in that format.

Photo Credit : Amazon FR
I am fond of the Casterman edition with illustrations by Jobbé-Duval. But  I also like very much the  drawings by Castelli for the Collection from La Bibliothèque Rose, a book collection created by the publishing house Hachette for children from 6 to 12 years old.  There is a new collection by Hachette with new illustations by Iris de Moüy.

Another publisher house, FLEURUS, has launched a new edition of  Les Malheurs de Sophie in September 2012!  The illustrations are from Ariane Delrieu and they are absolutely fabulous! You can check her WEBSITE to see a glimpse of her art!

Photo Credit : Fleurus Editions
All the French books from the Countess are available online WikiSource La Bibliothèque Libre, but I would definitely recommend buying the paper version, not just because I am old school but because the pictures are half the fun!

Below are the links to the trilogy:

Volume 3 - Les Vacances

Warning: The stories of La Comtesse de Ségur often include physical punishments and sometimes very serious violent abuse of children so one should be aware of this before letting their children read the novels.  I personally loved the books because it depicted in great detail an era that was totally different from mine and that is the magic I think the books still convey.  


  1. J'adore les ouvrages de la Comtesse de Ségur. J'ai lu "Les malheurs de Sophie", "Un bon petit diable" et "Les petites filles modèles" quand j'étais petite. Je me souviens même que je regardais le dessin animé "Les Malheurs de Sophie". C'était une petite série très bien faite. Merci pour cet article, ça me rappelle des tas de souvenirs!

    1. Merci à toi de prendre le temps de lire mon blog :)

  2. Replies
    1. The recent version from Fleurus is really cute and the same artist has also illustrated "The Little Princess and "Heidi"! I wished I could get those books :)

  3. MUST FIND IMMEDIATELY. must must must!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. I hope you can find them! The only stores that sell them in English are in Australia! (but there is always online shopping!)