Tag Archives: Paris

‘The Red Notebook’ by Antoine Laurain

The Red Notebookstarstarstarstar“He was about to commit a forbidden act. A transgression. For a man should never go through a woman’s handbag.”

Owner of “Le Cahier Rouge” bookstore, Laurent Letellier comes across an abandoned handbag on a street in Paris. He feels compelled to take it home to see if he can somehow return it to its owner. Of course the wallet is missing and the bag contains no phone or contact information, it was probably ditched by the thief who stole it.

Laurent is forced to make deductions from the things he finds in the handbag, including a small red notebook with handwritten thoughts and jottings that he reads for clues. This reveals a person that Laurent would very much like to meet, but without even a name to go on, how is he going to find one woman in a city of millions?

As original and charming as The President’s Hat, Antoine Laurain is an excellent storyteller. This is a short book, I finished it in two evenings. But it is rich with Parisian flavour and full of delicious literary whimsy. A very well written and satisfying little gem.

‘The President’s Hat’ by Antoine Laurain

The President's HatstarstarstarstarThis is an original, optimistic, and inventive story about a hat. But not just any hat. President François Mitterrand leaves his black felt hat in a Paris brasserie. His initials F.M. are embroidered into the lining. Daniel Mercier finds the hat after the President leaves the restaurant and decides to take it. He puts it on his head and extraordinary things begin to happen! A highly enjoyable, multi-layered and clever little read!

The setting of the book is the 80’s, which feels rather recent, but when we think about how far technology has come since then, we realise how the story would have played out very differently today, when we have a dizzying array of technological devices at our fingertips. There wasn’t even any internet then and sometimes we feel nostalgic for such a simpler time. So when Daniel is randomly seated next to the charismatic President in the restaurant, there would have been nothing more for him than a special memory and an interesting story to tell. Nowadays, pictures would immediately have been beamed around the planet with the aid of his smart phone. Has the charm of a moment in the 80’s scenario been lost to the capability of the present day?

A brilliant illustration of this question is seen in this photo, comparing the introduction of the new Pope in St. Peter’s Square in 2005 and 2013. Those are not candles burning… 🙂

New Pope in St. Peter's Square

‘The Paris Wife’ by Paula McLain

This was a Heather’s Pick (chapters.ca). I’ve learned to trust Heather Reisman’s recommendations because I usually like the books on her list.  In preparation for this book I did some reading on Wikipedia about Ernest Hemingway and I went to Paris for a few days. Who said research has to be boring?

‘The Paris Wife’ by Paula McLain is historical fiction, telling the story of Hadley Richardson, Ernest Hemingway’s first wife (first of four!). Swept away by her magnetic and intense husband and the bohemian lifestyle they would live with other creative Americans in Paris, Hadley’s story is romantic, fascinating, and heartbreaking. McLain captures the spirit of the era well and explores the relationship that this enigmatic couple had.

The author did an incredible amount of research for this book to get Hadley’s voice right. Her website is excellent, especially the Fact vs. Fiction section, the Video, and the Photo Gallery. Check it out. It is the most comprehensive author website I have ever seen and enriches the book further for me.
The Paris Wife Website

Why is it that so often those with an unusual amount of creative genius are often troubled or dysfunctional in their private lives? We find ourselves compelled and drawn to this question when we think about famous artists like Mozart, Van Gogh, and Hemingway. Paula McLain has done a great job of intriguing and informing with enough emotion and romance thrown in to make the learning effortless! One reviewer called The Paris Wife “literary tourism”. If you enjoy armchair travel, you’ll love this one!