Book Review for Francois Sagan’s Bonjour Tristesse
Don’t let the fact that the book is tiny, that it was written by a very young unaccomplished writer in 1955, or the fact that it is French dissuade you. This book is wonderful.
We spend the summer holiday with Cecile, a teenage girl on the cusp of womanhood who is caught between the desires of her younger self and those of the woman she is destined to become. Through her eyes we see a glimpse of the beauty of the French seaside and the complexities of her society. Cecile moves toward her abrupt coming of age with resolve and trepidation… she yearns for the simplicity of an imagined perfect family life while at the same time manipulating the adults around her in order to maintain some sense of control.
Cecile’s love hate relationship with first her father’s latest mistress Edna and then later with his fiancé Ann, is really a response to her unorthodox relationship with her father himself. Her fumbling in the matters of love with the older boy Cyril and her loss of her innocence, by her own hand, hallmark the classic heart trauma of a girl becoming a woman.
Cecile is a wonderfully written character. She isn’t always understandable or likable, but she is always engaging. Her metamorphosis is heart breaking and yet wholly unsurprising. Sagan writes with a style that is clear, concise, and reminiscent of Fitzgerald. In fact, had Cecile suddenly taken a trip to West Egg, it would not have seemed out of character.
With its gripping storytelling, it is no wonder that this book became a classic. I highly recommend it.