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.