Françoise Sagan…

is the author of the moment.

I stumbled upon this lovely writer’s name when I was reading up on the history of the  The French New Wave in Geoffery Norwell-Smith’s Making Waves. He makes the bold statement of saying how eighteen-year-old Sagan’s lavish novel, Bonjour Tristesse (translated in English: Hello Sadness), made a huge impression on the French public and was extremely influential in the French New Wave. The novel even caught the eye of the infamous Cashiers du Cinema. Apparently, Sagan’s female protagonist, Cécile, was the first unique and revolutionary character to come out in a while.

The outcome of Bonjour Tristesse?

Sagan became a super-star almost over night, her book became a best-seller in France, and her novel was turned into a movie.

Pretty sweet, right?

So, after reading all of this, I ran straight to the library and located the only English translation that I could find of Bonjour Tristesse. (Which also happened to be a first edition – score!)

The novel is short, full of flowery language (which, I hate to admit, I absolutely love), and ends with the same amount of shallowness that it started off with. Seventeen-year-old Cécile spends her summer vacationing on the French Riveria with her widowed/playboy father, Raymond. The two live a privilege and shallow life filled with sun, cigarettes, music, dancing, and of course, alcohol. (All of these luxuries are a common thread in Sagan’s novels – what can I say, the woman loves to write about the good life)

Cécile encounters her first stab of intimacy and love with the  handsome Cyril and Raymond spends his days with his young, very simple girlfriend Elsa.

Anyway, Cécile’s glorious life is threatened by the visit of the beautiful Anne – an intelligent and moral friend of the family who has her eyes on Raymond. Cécile realizes that Anne will bring order and etiquette to her shallow life, so what then ensues is a plot to keep Raymond and Anne from creating a healthy and respectable life together. The ending is pretty depressing, hence the title and Cécile sort of learns her lesson, but does not change her life…at all.

The novel is entertaining and a quick read, but nothing out of the ordinary. The opening paragraph is beautifully written and grabbed my attention right away, and there are certain passages throughout the novel that are thought provoking and again, beautiful, but overall…well, it’s all very simple. The novel did make enough of an impression that I wanted to read more and see how her writing advanced as she matured.

Since then, I’ve been in a Françoise Sagan fix. Her novels get better as she grows older and her characters and plots become more complex, detailed, and intimate.

So, with this introduction of Sagan, I will be reviewing a couple of her books for your and my pleasure, enjoy!

Eighteen-year-old Françoise Sagan
Françoise Sagan

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