Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Bonjour Tristesse, Francoise Sagan, E P Dutton and Company, 1955, 128 pp

Why is it that little French novels become big hits in the United States? This book, which is barely a novella, was the #4 bestseller in 1955 and is the quintessential little French novel. The author was seventeen when she wrote it and had failed to pass her first year at the Sorbonne. No Simone de Beauvoir here.

The story is an inverted "Parent Trap." A privileged seventeen-year-old girl lives with her exciting father. They party, stay up late and are having a summer on the Riviera. Cecile has failed at school and would rather swim, go to casinos and hang out with her amusing father, his current mistress and flighty friends. See what I mean? So French.

Enter Anne, a fashionable friend of Cecile's dead mother. She is responsible, works hard in the couture world and has been like a fairy godmother to Cecile. But now she captivates the father and they become engaged, which means an end to Cecile and her Daddy's carefree life. Cecile begins to plot a scheme to get rid of Anne, which works only too well.

Amusing chick lit. I am so glad it was short. The writing, at least in translation, is not bad but the story is so predictable. It was made into a movie with Jean Seberg in 1958 but is not available on DVD as far as I can tell. The book, most recently reissued by Harper Perennial in 2001, is only available from used book sellers and of course in libraries.

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