Sadie Stein at the NY Times:
Colette was not merely the most famous writer of her day, but one of the most famous people, period. A demimondaine with a shocking reputation, by the time of her death, in 1954, Colette was an institution, the first French woman of letters ever honored with a state funeral. (The church denied her a Catholic burial on the grounds of her multiple divorces.)
By turns revolutionary and retrograde, liberated and conservative, a traditionalist who defied labels and loved a title, Colette was nothing if not contradictory. Both her life (81 years long) and her body of work (which exceeded 40 books) were epic, and given that her writing was so often autobiographical, the two were inextricably conflated in the public mind. But if anything, her notoriety obscured the greatness of her prose: Her event-filled life often overshadowed the accomplishments of her best-selling fiction.