Category Archives: Gallic Books

The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain

The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain Title: The Red Notebook
Author: Antoine Laurain
Publisher: Gallic Books
ISBN: 978-1908313867
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 208
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

You watch a romantic movie about two people meeting in the strangest of ways and wish it were a book so you could savour the words and get more of it, page by page. And then you do chance on such a book, you read it; you actually devour it and love it to the hilt! You talk about it to everyone you meet and cannot stop talking more. You wish that someone would make a film out of it so you can see the magic appear on screen. “The Red Notebook” by Antoine Laurain is one such book.

The book is a delight. It is whimsical, it is hopeful, it is the kind of book that makes you want to fall in love and stay there. Laurent, a bookseller (I was already sold on the book) finds an abandoned handbag. He doesn’t know anything about the owner. Paris a big city and he cannot even find her.

Laure on the other hand has been mugged and hit on the hand. Her handbag is stolen and she is now in a coma. Laurent of course doesn’t know that it is Laure’s bag he’s found. That is where the story begins. Through a series of objects and clues that are there in the handbag, Laurent makes sense of the woman Laure could be. One of the items is a red notebook where Laure has written her thoughts and innermost confessions are penned there. He gets to know her. She is in a hospital, unaware of what is going on. Will they meet? What will happen after all? How will Laure react when she is out of her coma and gets to know of Laurent?

Laurain’s (love the wordplay of the author’s name throughout the book and love how the author has used it to his advantage) writing is playful, melancholic (in most places) and uplifting in so many other places as the book progresses. You see what a short book can do in terms of impact and how one incident can change lives for the worse and sometimes pleasantly for the better. I love the writing. It is short, crisp and full of humanity and life. These are the kind of books that we need, the kind of books that can uplift the spirit and make hearts sing.

The translation by Jane Aitken and Emily Boyce for sure have hit the spot (I don’t know French but the book worked with me on so many levels). What works for the book the most is that it is set in Paris – the city of love, the clichés, the extraordinary amidst the ordinary and the chance that each of us must get – of finding love.

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Sagan, Paris 1954 by Anne Berest & Translated by Heather Lloyd

Sagan, Paris 1954 by Anne Berest Title: Sagan, Paris 1954
Author: Anne Berest
Translated by: Heather Lloyd
Publisher: Gallic Books
ISBN: 978-1908313898
Genre: Memoirs, Literary Fiction, Biography, Literary Biography
Pages: 160
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4/5

Some books have an age for it. You just cannot read Catcher in the Rye at 30. You will not get it. No matter how hard you try. The same goes for a beautiful well-known book called “Bonjour Tristesse” whose author Francoise Sagan was only eighteen when she wrote it.

I was eighteen when I read. That was the time I came out to my family and this book was one of those read that year, after I came out, that helped me see myself better and clearer for sure. There is no other way to put it and no better way to pay homage to it than read a book about how “Bonjour Tristesse” became what it did and that’s what I did when I read “Sagan, Paris 1954” by Anne Berest and translated by Heather Lloyd from French.

“Sagan, Paris 1954” traces the life of Francoise Quoirez, before she became a literary sensation. It is of the months in 1954 that led to the publication of her legendary novel. Berest writes the book in the form of a paean – a poetic-prose meditation on the young author’s life – the atmosphere in which she grew, her friends, her parents, her brother and her life in Paris. The book reads like a journal – a journal of Sagan (in some bits – some fabricated) as written by Berest. The reader sometimes doesn’t know whose perspective or whose life is being talked about – I liked the intermingling. It worked for me for sure.

If you are looking for writing tips or how it is to be a writer at eighteen, then this book is not for you at all. This book is for lovers of literature who want to know more about Sagan and how she became what she did. Berest’s writing will keep you turning the pages and leave you hungering for more. Lloyd’s translation is precise and cuts clean through the book.

As a reader, I loved how Berest took me through the journey of a confident writer who knew that the only way she would be was in writing and getting a book published. She was never short on confidence. Sagan’s life in these couple of months was nothing short of a rollercoaster ride which Berest intricately and with great brevity takes us through. I love this book – it is a great mix – a take on real life and life that is closely reimagined – taking some liberties but which could very well be true.