Friday, June 27, 2014

Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan

I did not know the meaning of this book's title when I bought it. To be truthful, the reason I even came across it was because of an image on Tumblr (below). Someone had taken a photo of a page from this book and I happened to glance over the text when I suddenly saw two familiar names: Elsa and Anne(a). My mind quickly went to Disney's newest movie, Frozen. I went to Google and this book popped up so, naturally, I bought it. The title means hello sadness in French. It is such a simple idea yet carries a lot of weight. It is as if the novelist is greeting sadness as an old friend. The brilliance of this is only scratching the surface. Let me take things to another level for a moment and tell you that this book was written by a 17 year old and published when she was 18! I can't begin to say how awesome that statistic is! When I was 17 I was writing my own novel yet I hardly had the maturity nor the experience to write a great novel. Francoise Sagan, however, makes the art seem effortless.
Hello sadness, says the novel's title, and right away the reader can sense the sadness within main character Cecile as she vacations with her father and his mistress at a house on the beach in France. Everything seems picture perfect at first though the narration, while complex, gives off a sense of emptyness. Yes Cecile and her father have it all...but do they really? The mood takes a sharp turn when an old friend of Cecile's late mother comes to visit. The old friend is Anne, an educated, type A woman who steals Cecile's fathers heart. His mistress, Elsa, leaves when she discovers their affair. Struck with jealousy, abandonment, and annoyance, Cecile makes it her goal to get rid of Anne. But the task isn't easy. Cecile is torn between her love for Anne and for the life she once had when it was only her, her father and another woman.
Cecile's story and narration are sophisticated yet are still able to capture the mind of a seemingly silly teenage girl. Many adults do not take teens seriously because of their rash decisions and their ignorance. They take these two things and label teens as stupid. But teens aren't stupid, just inexperienced and this novel does a fantastic job at portraying this. Sagan handles Cecile with a complexity that most popular novels about teen girls fail to reflect. Cecile is young, doesn't want to study and is blooming into her sexuality with a boy named Cyril.
I sympathized with Cecile. She was so caught up in little luxuries that pushed her to do big things with big consequences. Cecile's father was a good character as well though he desperately needs to commit and Cecile just won't have it. Then there is Anne, the woman who longs to have control and fix things. I loved Anne's character and the drama her character brought to the story, but I don't like Anne the person. She just walks in and starts conducting everyone around her as if they are puppets and she holds the strings. She won't let Cecile bloom into her own personality but limits her to only her studies. The fate of Anne, however, really haunts me and takes the story to an even more hollow place than it was before.
Sagan's writing is full of brutal but beautiful honesty. When this book was released, many people (mostly Christian) denounced it and some even said it was written by the devil. It pains me to read that honest writing is seen as a demonic force. Sagan's simple sentences hold so much power and precision that don't come natural to every teenager who aspires to be a published author. Her talent should not be condemned but should be celebrated!
The book was a wonderful read. I felt very classy while flipping through it's pages and so thankful that I happened upon a few sentences on Tumblr. It really is a brilliant book and while you'll only hear praises from me, it didn't hook me enough to give 5 stars. I will instead give it 4.5 stars out of 5.

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