Category Archives: Author-S

Review: Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan

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I think I was too old for this book.  I think I would’ve appreciated it when I was in my twenties at university when the world was newish but I’m old and jaded now so the story of a 17 year old girl plotting to ruin the life of her libertine father’s new fiancée seemed all a bit fanciful, a bit yawn-making.

Set on the French Riviera, Cécile is living a high and hedonistic life with her forty-something-year-old father Raymond and his girl of the moment, redheaded Elsa.  They live a life of drinking, gambling, staying out late and not thinking too much.  When Anne, the seemingly level-headed and intellectual forty-something-year-old family friend comes to visit, her presence changes the louche dynamic forever.  Raymond proposes marriage to Anne, Elsa is forced to find comfort in the arms of someone else, while Cécile has to study daily for an exam she has failed previously.

Cécile dislikes these changes so with the help of Cyril, her 26 year old boyfriend in the next villa, and using Elsa’s continuing feelings for Raymond to further her own ends, she concocts a plan to destroy Anne.

Sagan has created a morally ambiguous character in Cécile.  By turns young and old, wise and stupid, tragic and ridiculous, she embodies the flightiness of youth, with its penchant for melodrama and a narcissistic appreciation of its developing talents.  Cécile is also that thing that fails to recognise when it’s being cruel or callous and if it does, continues in the same way anyway.  Sooo, like, adolescent.

Apparently this book caused a stir when it was published in the 1950s.  And with the sexually and morally emboldened Cécile at its core, I’m not surprised.  In 2012 it’s a bit passé.

Book details:
Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan, published by John Murray books 1954, Penguin 1958, 108 pages, personal copy mooched from BookMooch.

BOOK REVIEW: American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

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BOOK REVIEW: American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld, fiction, Doubleday, paperback, 2008, 555 pages.

Sittenfeld_American Wife

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld is a loose fictionalisation of the life of Laura Bush, the wife of the former President of the United States, George W Bush.

It tracks the life of Alice Lindgren from young girl to First Lady and documents the events that occur along the way.  There is nothing particularly remarkable about her life and I think that’s the point — American Wife is a study in ordinariness.  It shows how an unexceptional young girl growing up in the American mid-west can, through various choices, find herself as wife to a President of the United States.  It was not something she set out to be, rather it’s a position that finds her because of the person she chooses to marry and his political ambitions as state Governor, and then as President.

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BOOK REVIEW: All He Ever Wanted by Anita Shreve

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BOOK REVIEW: All He Ever Wanted by Anita Shreve, fiction, Abacus, paperback, 2003, 322 pages.

Shreve_All He Ever Wanted

Knowing very little about Anita Shreve’s work, I picked up All He Ever Wanted after reading somewhere online that it references Virginia Woolf’s notion from A Room of One’s Own that ‘A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction’.  More broadly, this is often taken as a claim for women’s independence.  All He Ever Wanted tips its hat to this idea but it’s not its central force.

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