Monday, 17 October 2016

The President's Hat

A break away is a lovely chance to read a book you've been meaning to read for ages and just haven't got to. On my recent trip to the South Coast I took a rather large bag chock full of enticing reads so I could have some choice of reading material when I got there. Of course there is always the hope that you will read lots of books and so need lots of reading material. I only managed to finish one book while I was away, but somehow this most Parisian of stories was perfect for my beachy retreat. I'd seen lots about Laurain's third and most recent book around of late (French Rhapsody), and this shamed me enough to seek out his first.

Hat wearing Parisian Antoine Laurain lost his hat in a cafe one time, and that loss formed the kernel of The President's Hat. French President Francois Mitterrand famously wore a Fedora. He was President of France in the early 80s, and our story is firmly set in this time with multiple music and popular culture references like the seemingly inexplicable Caroline Loeb's C'est la Ouate.

The President's Hat starts with President Mitterrand out to dinner in a stylish Parisian bistro. Sitting at the next table is a rather humble accountant, Daniel Mercier who is treating himself while his wife and son are out of town visiting family. At the end of the evening President Mitterrand accidentally leaves his hat behind at the restaurant. Daniel notices, and decides against trying to return it and instead walks out of the restaurant with Mitterrand's fedora on his own head.

Mitterrand's fedora becomes a talisman for change, Daniel's life is transformed by his contact with the hat, and when he himself misplaces the hat he is beside himself. But while the hat doesn't have nine lives like a cat it does go on to change the lives of other people who also find the hat.

Perhaps, when all was said and done, it was just as easy to leave someone's life as enter it. A stroke of fate and a few words could be enough to start a relationship. A stroke of fate and a few words could end it too. 

There are many delightful French touches. A fair amount of Champagne is drunk. There are lots of familiar Paris locations. Daniel Mercier is greatly disappointed that his six year old son doesn't want to try oysters.

When they got up to their sixteenth-floor apartment in the fifteenth arrondissement, Daniel announced that he'd made supper. Cold meat, chicken, tomato and basil salad, and cheese. Véronique was impressed- her husband rarely made dinner. First they had an aperitif.

I love how the book design incorporates its own bookmark into the back cover! I've never seen that before. Although I couldn't bring myself to use it... 

While it will never win the (recently announced) Nobel Prize for Literature or anything (and who would have predicted that Bob Dylan would?), I did very much enjoy my time with The President's Hat. Perhaps one day I'll be able to reread it as Le Chapeau de Mitterrand? Meanwhile, Mitterrand is in the news again (despite being long dead).

There were many interesting tidbits along the way. The Paris lover in me was fascinated to learn how much of modern day Paris owes to Francois Mitterrand. Mitterrand's Grands Travaux is responsible for many of the highlights of modern Paris. Louvre Pyramid, Musee d'Orsay, the Grand Arche de la Defense amongst them. Similarly I'd never heard of American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, sadly now a lifelong member of the 27 Club.  Although the notion of French kiddies of the 80s watching Knight Rider makes me so sad, and the reggae version of La Marseillaise even sadder. Not surprisingly it was rather controversial when it was released in  1979.

If you're lucky enough to be in Paris you can check out Antoine Laurain's Best Eats in Paris.

Dreaming of France is a wonderful Monday meme
from Paulita at An Accidental Blog  
French Bingo 2016


Emma at Words And Peace / France Book Tours said...

great review, and cool extra details. As I read it on kindle, I had no idea for the bookmark, so cleaver

Paulita said...

Louise, So glad to have you playing along with Dreaming of France. I really enjoyed The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain, so I'll search out "The President's Hat."
As a matter of fact, I was happy to receive an email from the author after I wrote about The Red Notebook. Maybe you will hear from him too.
Thanks for playing along.

Tamara said...

Great review, and interesting extras.. i really enjoyed these books, both the presidents hat and the red note book. Im looking forward to more from this author.

I'm Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

I must look for this one.