I was walking home from the lake near my house when I came across one of those little community libraries. It was literally stuffed to its breaking point and I had a sudden urge to run across the street and straighten it.
There I stood, on the side of a residential road, pulling out book after book and placing them on the pavement. Then, I repeated the process, but in reverse, carefully returning the books, one-by-one into the blue box of a “library.” But then, between tattered tomes, a small book slipped out and caught my eye. It was Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan.
Due to my background in Spanish (and recent break-in to Italian), I instantly recognized the French volume as saying “Hello Sadness” and was instantly intrigued. And then I was briefly hesitant because I feared I would not be able to read this funny little book.
Don’t worry, it was translated. I could read it, and here are my thoughts. (And here’s my vlog!)
Written in the early 1950s by the French youth, Sagan, this is the story of Cécile, a seventeen-year old living with her rich father at the seaside for the summer holiday. With them is his current mistress Elsa–but spoiler alert, she doesn’t really last long–and an old friend Anne comes to visit. Of course, a love triangle ensues. Jealousy reigns, and not just between Anne and Elsa. And while plotting a breakup between her father and Anne, Cécile finds young love with a neighbor boy, Cyril.
This is arguably a pseudo coming-of-age story as Cécile (and her father) is forced to reevaluate life as she knows it. She must grow up and find maturity, finding the balance between abundant hedonism and restrained respectability.
It’s a fairly short read and definitely entertaining. I found it so easy to get lost in Cécile’s memories–the story is told an assumingly short time after the summer in question–and wanted to find out what happened next.
I don’t know if I’d necessarily call it a “classic” that anyone and everyone should read, but without a doubt, it is worth it. I suppose the only reason why you might have a reservation is if infidelities and casual sex are triggering at all. But even so, the descriptions of these events are not so blunt that I think they would actually cause legitimate offense.
I thoroughly enjoyed the story and do think you will too!
That’s all I have for this week. Be sure to look out for my future posts on Kate Wilhelm’s A Wrongful Death!