Cheri, first published in 1920, is considered Colette's finest novel. Exquisitely handsome, spoilt and sardonic, Cheri is the only son of a wealthy courtesan, a contemporary of Lea, the magnificent and talented woman who for six years has devoted herself to his amorous education. When a rich marriage is arranged for Cheri, Lea reluctantly decides their relationship must end. Cheri, despite his apparent detachment, is haunted by memories of Lea; alienated from his wife, his family and his surroundings, he retreats into a fantasy world made up of dreams and the past, a world from which there is only one route of escape. In her portrait of the fated love affair between a very young man and a middle-aged woman, Colette achieved a peak in her earthy, sensuous and utterly individual art. Cheri caused considerable controversy both in its choice of setting - the fabulous demi-monde of the Parisian courtesans - and in its portrayal of Cheri.
Colette, the creator of Claudine, Cheri and Gigi, and one of France's outstanding writers, had a long, varied and active life. Born in Burgundy on 1873 she moved to Paris at the age of twenty with her husband the writer and critic Henry Gauthiers-Viller (Willy). Forcing Colette to write Willy published her novels in his name and the Claudine series became an instant success. In 1935 she married for the third time and lived with husband Maurice Goudeket until her death in 1954. Her writing runs to fifteen volumes, novels, portraits, essays, chroniques and a large body of autobiographical prose. She was the first woman President of the Academie Goncourt, and when she died she was given a state funeral and buried in Pere-Lachaise cemetry in Paris.