Thursday, July 16, 2015

Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan


A strange melancholy pervades me to which I hesitate to give the grave and beautiful name of sorrow. The idea of sorrow has always appealed to me, but now I am almost ashamed of its complete egoism. I have known boredom, regret, and occasionally remorse, but never sorrow. Today it envelopes me like a silken web, enervating and soft, and sets me apart from everybody else.

From the opening paragraph I knew I was in for a treat, and that's exactly what this little gem delivered. The depth of our young narrator's self-understanding (and selfishness), an introspective tone, and engaging writing style drew me in right away and held me rapt through the final page.

A teenage girl, her philandering widowed father, his current girlfriend,  a strict but well-meaning friend of her late mother, and a summer rental on the French Riviera... just imagine the possibilities! And there's a cute guy with a sailboat just a few villas down, too.

Goodreads says: "Deceptively simple in structure, Bonjour Tristesse is a complex and beautifully composed portrait of casual amorality and a young woman's desperate attempt to understand and control the world around her."

I think it's also a cautionary tale of youthful schemes and their unintended consequences.

A near perfect summer read, it's hard to believe the author was only eighteen years old when she wrote this novella in 1954.

My rating:


Click here for links to all of this week's Paris in July posts.

46 comments:

  1. Having three daughters 17, 19, and 21, this book does sound very interesting.

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    1. mel u - My three daughters are just slightly older, so we are both very familiar with how teenage girls think! ;-)

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  2. This is a perfect example of a book I've heard about for years and knew nothing about. Now I do, and I'd love to read it.

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    1. Audrey - That exactly how I feel about your recent post on the letters of Madame de Sévigné! Have heard about her for years, but knew nothing beyond the name.

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  3. Oooh - this one sounds juicy and great for summer!

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    1. Sarah - Perfect for an afternoon at the pool!

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  4. I didn't realize this was an older book republished. It sounds terrific!

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    1. Kathy - I didn't realize it was published that long ago either... still a wonderful story today!

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  5. I really enjoyed this novel, and it's amazing to me, too, that Francoise Sagan was eighteen when she wrote this. I'd like to try more of her books.

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    1. Monica - I'd like to read some of her other books, too. She was an excellent writer at 18 and it would be interesting to see how her style matured.

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  6. This looks like a jewel of a book. I'll definitely be looking for this one. Just from the cover I had assumed it was a new book so I'm intrigued to see that it was written in 1954.

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    1. Katherine - It has been reissued several times and the covers have a modern feel... the story doesn't seem all that dated either.

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  7. I'm moderately sure that I read this (and a number of Sagan's other works) when I was a young thing myself. I remember enjoying them, but no detail unfortunately. I should reread her.

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    1. Louise - I'll be on the lookout for more of work.

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  8. I still need to read this one. I've heard so many great things about it. Definitely a book to add to my TBR pile ASAP. Great post!

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    1. Nadia - It is a wonderful little book... a perfect summer read!

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  9. This does sound like a gem. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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  10. 1954 seems like such a long time ago .... I'm sure I didn't read this book when it first came out, but something tells me I have read it. I do remember reading The Grapes of Wrath when I was still a very young reader In the mid-'50's. It made a big impression on me and when I re-read it again in the '70's, I found it so depressing I could hardly finish it. John Steinbeck has long been on my list of favorite writers, but East of Eden is the book I like best. Wonderful movie, as well.

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    1. JudyMac - Steinbeck is one of my favorites, too! I read Grapes of Wrath in high school back in the 70s, but East of Eden is the one I like best, too. It's actually one of my all-time favorites. A year or two ago, I finally got around to reading Travels with Charley and that has become another favorite... felt like I came to understand Steinbeck the Man, as opposed to Steinbeck the Writer. Good stuff!

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  11. Love the cover of this book! I can see that it is quite a treat to read as well. I will be TBR-ing this one.

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    1. Athira - Unfortunately, that is not the edition I read. My library copy was an old one from the 80s :(

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  12. I read this a few years ago for Paris in July and remember thinking that is was so quintessentially French!

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    1. Anbolyn - Yes, I thought that, too. Such a wonderful book.

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  13. Okay, okay I have to fit this in somehow.
    Tempting review - thank you :-)

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    1. Brona - I'm sure you'll like it: )

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  14. This book grabbed my attention for so many reasons. It takes place in Paris, the synopsis is more than interesting, and I love that it was first written in 1954 and the author was only 19 yrs. old. I've got to get a copy.

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    1. Vicki - It's well worth the read... I loved it!

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  15. Oh yes, I will have to find time for this!!!

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    1. Beth F - It's very short... perfect for a summer afternoon!

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  16. I really like that opening paragraph. It does seem the writings of a young person, bit I agree that I would expect someone a little older the eighteen to have written it.

    I see that Sagan went on to have a distinctive literary career after starting with this book.

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    1. Brian Joseph - I'm planning to read some of Sagan's later work. If this is how she wrote at 18, I'm very curious about her adult voice.

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  17. It does sound delightful - and I am even more intrigued knowing it was written by such a young, debut author!

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    1. Molly - I'm surprised it's not more widely read today... such a lovely book!

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  18. This looks good and I'm always interested in an author this young!

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    1. Stacy - This is the best book I can think of by an 18 year old!

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  19. I read this years and ago, when I was about the same age that Sagan was when she wrote it, and really enjoyed it. You've made want to read it again.

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    1. Christine - This would be a lovely way to spend a summer afternoon!

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  20. I can't believe I've never read this before. It's such a classic and sounds totally delightful. The list gets longer...

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    1. Jeanie - Oh, I know what you mean about that list! I could do nothing but read and never get to them all. I really enjoyed this one though.

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  21. I've not read this but I recall enjoying the movie version with Jean Seaberg from the 1960's I think. I think it's based on this book. They do have the same title.

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    1. James - Thank you for mentioning that movie! Just looked it up (1958) and now I need to see if I can find it somewhere in my library system.

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  22. I havent heard of it before but I am intrigued in a perfect summer read and an author of 18. wow.

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    1. Thecuecard - I learned of this book through Paris in July posts from previous years. It seems like someone read it almost every year and the praise seemed to be unanimous.I'm interested in reading her adult work now.

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