Wednesday, September 19, 2007

the last book I read

Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan.

Papa? Nicole?

Yes, we're in France, where Raymond and his precocious teenage daughter Cécile live a life of carefree hedonism punctuated by holidays on the French Riviera where they loll languidly around drinking champagne and having decadent affairs. During one of these holidays an old friend of Cécile's (long-dead) mother comes to visit and strikes up an intense relationship with Raymond. Cécile, fearing the end of her carefree existence, conspires with her young lover Cyril to prise the couple apart, with tragic consequences.

It's one of those novels which starts by recollecting some mythical golden summer from years past, a sure sign that some sort of disaster is in the offing. Sagan was only eighteen when she wrote the book, but it doesn't read like a sixth-form essay, possibly because it's too short (a fraction over 100 pages) to outstay its welcome. I suppose your perceptions are coloured by what you read last, as well, and it's quite nice to follow a big thick meaty one with something short and refreshing (as the actress said to the bishop), like a refreshing glug of wine after a big meal, before moving on to the next course.

Interesting tangentially-Sagan-related factoids: the title Bonjour Tristesse is taken from a poem by the French poet Paul Éluard, whose wife Gala left him to become the wife and muse of the legendary Spanish surrealist nutter Salvador Dalí. Also, Sagan (whose real name was Françoise Quoirez) took her surname du plume from a character in Marcel Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu, which I will get round to reading some day, honest. I've been training by eating madeleines, so that's a start.

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