Amélie and Francie on touch

I paged through one of my copies of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn for the first time in months yesterday, and it struck me that Francie Nolan is not unlike Amélie Poulain (which is probably why I identify with the two of them). They’re both introverts with rich imaginations and a love of solitude, and they both savor simple pleasures, whether it’s Saturday-afternoon reading on a fire escape hidden by a treetop, or relishing the first crack of a crème brûlée’s burnt-sugar top.

There’s Amélie, who likes dipping her hand into sacks of grain—I love the way this feels, all cool and smooth and pebbly—and then there’s Francie, who likes to head to her local five-and-dime on just another Saturday to enjoy the sensory appeal of running her hands over different surfaces and textures of things in the shop. To me, pleasures like these slow down time. Amélie and Francie are sometimes described as lonely girls, but to me they’re more often simply alone, quietly and composedly inhabiting their solitude. Plus I like how they capture the essence of their days this way.

“Arriving at the store, she walked up and down the aisles handling any object her fancy favored. What a wonderful feeling to pick something up, hold it for a moment, feel its contour, run her hand over its surface and then replace it carefully. … After an orgy of touching things, she made her planned purchase—five cents’ worth of pink-and-white peppermint wafers.”


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