Have you ever come across a book and just known you were going to love it, before you’d even read a word? That was the experience I had with both of Antoine Laurain’s novels, “The Red Notebook” and “The President’s Hat.” I stumbled upon the former on Amazon, where I usually go down a rabbit hole of “Books You May Like” to find things to add my library hold queue. The premise grabbed me immediately: a man finds a woman’s purse on the street, and in going through the contents to try to find its owner, finds a red notebook with her thoughts and scribblings and starts to fall in love with her. He also owns a bookshop called Le Cahier Rouge, the red notebook. It also happens to be set in Paris, translated from French, but truthfully, that it played into my Francophilia was secondary to how delightful of a book it was. A particularly beautiful, articulate excerpt that resonated with me, given what I went through earlier this year before I changed jobs:
An existence devoted to reading would have been his ultimate fulfillment, but it had not been given to him. He would have had to choose that path much earlier, to have known what he wanted to do…To have had a life plan. At first it had been interested to be recognized as a promising young banker, to climb the hierarchy, to have responsibilities and to earn a lot of money. Up until the day he had started to feel, dimly at first, then more and more clearly, that the man he had become was the absolute opposite of what he really was. Although the dichotomy weighed heavily on him, for a while the money he was earning was compensation enough, but then it could no longer make up for it. The gap between his ideal and his reality was too great. The weight turned into an anguish that was succeeded by the intolerable idea that he was wasting his life –or even that he had already wasted it.
I couldn’t put it down, and when I was finished, I wanted to hug it, re-read it, and find the author, Antoine Laurain, and ask him how he makes writing look so easy and good. (I also have a thing for the name Antoine). Immediately after finishing “The Red Notebook”, I picked up his other, earlier novel, “The President’s Hat” from the library, and started it yesterday. I’m more than halfway through, and that I can’t stay home from work to finish reading it and rub it on my head in the hopes that some of Laurain’s beautiful faculty with words will transfer to me by osmosis or something is torture. Mon dieu.
Really, kiddos, you have to go read them. I haven’t read anything as charming and perfect in a long time. What are you reading these days?