Paris in July: Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan

Bonjour Tristesse
by Francoise Sagan
translated by Irene Ash
published by Harper Perennial Modern Classics
first published in 1955
pages: 130
With a name like Bonjour Tristesse (Hello Sadness), you know something bad is imminent in this novel. And the way that our narrator tells her story, with heavy foreshadowing throughout, one reads with one’s heart in one’s mouth.
“I will pass quickly over this period, for I am afraid that if I look at it closely, I shall revive memories that are too painful. Even now I feel overwhelmed as I think of Anne’s happy laugh, of her kindness to me. My conscience troubles me so much at these moments that I am obliged to resort to some expedient like lighting a cigarette, putting on a record, or telephoning to a friend. Then gradually I begin to think of something else. But I do not like having to take my refuge in forgetfulness and frivolity instead of facing my memories and fighting them.” (p. 115)
I was reminded of Briony in Ian McEwan’s Atonement. While some maintain that she was innocent in terms of meddling in her sister’s affair, I will always believe it was intentional. In this case, Cecile meddles with her father’s affairs quite purposefully. They had enjoyed a life together of rather shabby morals; she accompanied him to bars, smoking and drinking like an adult, taking on Cyril has a lover when they vacation in the summertime. He went through mistress after mistress, never taking any of them seriously until Anne. Anne was a friend of Cecile’s mother, now deceased, and when she re-entered their lives Cecile’s father quickly abandoned his current amour, Elsa, for her. At first Cecile is happy about her father and Anne. But then she concocts a plan for this relationship’s demise.
Why does she do this? Because she wants to test her powers over her father? Because she resents Anne’s intrusion into their happy life? Because she can? At any rate, it is decided that Cyril and Elsa will cavort around the beach, and in the woods, purposely creating the effect that they are lovers in order to distress Cecile’s father. Cecile never thinks that anything will come of this; she seems to assume that her lover, and her father’s ex-lover, will play this game until everyone returns to Paris and their normal lives.
Sadly, this isn’t what happens at all.
Francoise Sagan wrote this novel when she was eighteen years old. While I question the power of its writing (such foreshadowing! Such telling of emotion rather than showing!) I can attest to the fact that she captures the heart of a selfish young woman spot on. And the suspense one feels while reading to the end is rather incredible. But, I will not tell you what the tristesse is. That you’ll have to discover for yourself.

Read for Paris in July 2012 hosted by Tamara and Karen. Find Chinoiseries’ reivew here.

Mailbox Monday for July 2

Me, Who Dove into The Heart of The World by Sabina Berman (thanks to Henry Holt and Co.)

“A transporting and brilliant comic novel narrated by an unforgettable woman, an autistic savant whose idiosyncrasies prove her greatest gifts.”

Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan (published by Harper Collins)

“The internationally beloved story of a precocious teenager’s attempts to understand and control the world around her, Francoise Sagan’s Bonjour Tristesse is a beautifully composed, wonderfully ambiguous celebration of sexual liberation, at once sympathetic and powerfully unsparing.”

Miss Me When I’m Gone by Emily Arsenault (thanks to Harper Collins)

Gretchen Waters is most famous for her book Tammyland-a “honky-tonk Eat, Pray, Love,” a memoir about her divorce and her admiration for Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, and Dolly Parton. When Gretchen dies falling on a set of stone steps outside of a library, everyone thinks it was an accident or a botched mugging. Jami, Gretchen’s best friend from college, certainly has no reason to suspect foul play. That is, until she becomes Gretchen’s literary executor. Gretchen’s latest manuscript is much darker than Tammyland-ostensibly about her favorite classic male country singers, it’s really about a murder in her family that haunted her childhood. From beyond the grave Gretchwen opens up a wsinister new world through her writing, and suddenly her death seems suspicious. And then Jamie finds herself in danger as well…

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers (published by Hourton Mifflin Harcourt)

The Heart is A Lonely Hunter tells an unforgettable tale of moral isolation in a small southern mill town in the 1930’s. Richard Wright was astonished by McCullers’s ability to “rise above the pressures of her environment and embrace white and black humanity in one sweep of apprehension and tenderness.” Hers is a humanity that touches all who come to her work, whether for the first time, or as so many do, time and time again.”

The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Potzsch (published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

“Taking us back in history to a place where autopsies were blasphemous, coffee was an exotic drink, dried toads were the recommended remedy for the plague, and the devil was as real as anything, The Hangman’s Daughter brings to cinematic life the sights, sounds, and smells of seventeenth-century Bavaria, telling the engrossing story of a compassionate hangman who will live on in readers’ imaginations long after they’ve put down the novel.”

I’m looking forward to reading Bonjour Tristesse for the Paris in July challenge, and The Hangman’s Daughter for Carl’s R.I.P. which will begin in September.  Find other Mailbox entries here.