On the second leg of my journey to Sydney, having finished Middlemarch at Beijing Aiport, I was in dire need of a quick, compelling read that would entertain me for the final couple of hours of my flight. Thankfully, I had packed Bonjour Tristesse. Originally bought from Atlantis Books while on holiday in Santorini a few weeks previously. The shop itself is a haven for book lovers; tucked away in a white washed cave-like building on a side street in Santorini, I could have spent my entire holiday perusing the well-stocked shelves, but instead settled for an hour in the early evening sun, leaving with just one of the bookseller’s recommendations. The book is certainly more handbag-friendly than my copy of Middlemarch – which has been wrongly mistaken for the Bible on more than one occasion.
Translated as ‘Hello Sadness’, Bonjour Tristesse was written by eighteen-year old Françoise Sagan; published in 1954 it immediately became an overnight sensation. An amoral tale of a heady summer set on the French Riviera, this fast-paced novella scandalised French society and soon brought fame to its young author.
Seventeen-year-old Cecil is holidaying on the Côte d’Azur with her widowed father and his mistress and is enjoying the freedom afforded to her now she’s no longer confined to the four walls of boarding school. A holiday romance ensues with “tall and almost beautiful” law student Cyril, who becomes entangled in a plot Cecil concocts to stop the impending wedding between her father and late mother’s best friend.
A subtle, rousing tale with tragic consequences, Bonjour Tristesse is plentiful in poetic prose and resonates as much with readers today as it did on its first publication over sixty years ago.
Love this post? Click here to subscribe.