The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain

Translated from the French by Emily Boyce and Jane Aitken

This is a delight. It’s delightful, delicious and – as the song says – delovely! I’m not one for romans d’amour, but this is not just any old love story – this is a completely different one. It’s also French. Very French. It all happens in Paris – it reeks of Paris; it oozes France. The street names sing out Paris. The way of life, the talk, the ‘sound’, the ‘feel’ is France, everyday France. It talks of food – pot au feu, hachis Parmentier – so NOT mince and mashed potatoes or even shepherd’s pie; and wine – no, wines plural – Burgundy, Pouilly-Fuissé, Martini Rosso and others – different types for different times. Whole backgrounds of books and writers and poets and artists and places and things are all woven through the mesh of the story.

And so to the story. It’s a very simple story – contemporary, definitely of our present day. A woman is mugged, and her handbag stolen, and a man finds the handbag in a bin and vows to find her and give her back her handbag. But it’s about the man, a bookseller who owns a bookshop called Le Cahier Rouge; and the handbag – the soft mauve leather handbag with gold clasps – and its contents – all the myriad things from perfume and lipsticks and other odds and ends you can find in any woman’s bag – but no phone or any identification – to a notebook, a red moleskine notebook, filled with what must have been the woman’s random thoughts and fears and dreams.

So, with nothing to identify her in the beautiful mauve bag, the man continues to read the red moleskine notebook in the hope that somewhere in there would be a clue to who the by now, to him, fascinating woman was. ‘He had opened a door into the soul of the woman with the mauve bag . . . ’ (quote from the book) . . . and now he had to find her.

And that’s what the rest of the book is about.

It isn’t a long book – only 159 pages – but each of those pages is filled with really lovely clear, clean writing and an enchanting story. It is beautifully translated. Enjoy the reading!

[We have a copy of The Red Notebook in the library as well as French Rhapsody, signed by the author when he visited Pittenweem Library last year.]

Reviewed by a library member