Bonjour Tristesse, by Françoise Sagan. Published 2008 by HarperPerennial Modern Classics. Literary Fiction. Translation.
Bonjour Tristesse is one of those little cultural classics that everyone should probably read at some point, and luckily enough it's short, so a cup of coffee and a Gauloise will probably be enough to get you through the experience.
It's a coming of age story set amidst the privilege and wealth of the French Riveria; a young girl named Cécile is spending the summer with her father and his mistress, a Titian-haired demimondaine by the name of Elsa. He is also waiting on the arrival of another woman, Anne, his late wife's friend and now his.
The summer passes as Cécile et. al. play on the beaches and casinos of the Riveria, and Cécile entertains her own friend, Cyril. Games are played, rivalries develop, and the story ends with a tragedy right out of a soap opera.
A lot has been written about the influences of an on Bonjour Tristesse; some say it's an existentialist classic and others find it maudlin and dull. I'm probably in the latter camp. Even so, I think it's an essential read if for no other reason than to appreciate its echoes in modern literature. Every girl's coming-of-age story published since owes it something and it's well worth the time it takes to read.
The next time you're in a café and want to feel oh-so-Continental, you might give it a try. You've nothing to lose.
FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.