Throwback Thursday: Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan


Throwback Thursday is a meme created by Renée at It’s Book Talk to share old favourite books rather than just the new shiny ones. This is a great idea to bring back to life some much-loved books. Please feel free to join in.

This week I have chosen Bonjour Tristesse which I read back in 2009.

9780141198750Bonjour Tristesee by Francoise Sagan

This book was written by an 18 year old which, when you consider the richness of the narrative and the emotions involved, I find quite astounding. Or maybe I’ve just got too old and have forgotten how complex emotions are when you’re teetering on the brink of adulthood. Either way, I thought it was brilliantly done.

Bonjour Tristesse (Hello Sadness) is a tale of one tragic summer through the eyes of a seventeen year old girl. Spoilt and extrovert, Cecile is used to living the high life with her 40 year old Dad whom she goes out drinking and gambling with as if she were his contemporary. They head off from Paris to a villa in the south of France for 2 months one summer (taking along Elsa, her fathers current girlfriend) and spend the first few weeks doing little else other than sunbathing and swimming in the sea. Then Anne arrives (Cecile’s dead mothers best friend) who is sensible, intelligent and calm (everything Cecile and her father are not). Cecile loves Anne, but having been used to doing exactly as she pleases, she is not pleased when Anne treats her as the child she is and makes her study for her exams. Cecile is adamant that she doesn’t need exams – she is already leading the life she wants (living in luxury and partying none stop). Shortly after, Anne and Cecile’s father announce that they are getting married and here Cecile hatches a plan to stop the wedding at all costs (fearing for the lifestyle she loves with her father and knowing that it will all change). She involves Elsa, the spurned girlfriend, and Cyril, the boy from the next villa whom she has been sleeping with, to help her plot the undoing of the engagement. Everything seems to be going according to plan, and then it all goes horribly wrong…

I loved it. I don’t know if it is because Sagan was the same age as Cecile herself or that she was an incredibly perceptive young lady, but she really captures the fine balance of not being sure whether you’re an adult or a child. Interestingly, although Anne appears to treat her as the latter and her father as a contemporary, Cecile herself says that she feels like their pet kitten (something to be cooed at and petted).


I instantly fell in love with this book. I have since read a few more of Sagan’s books and been similarly blown away by how perceptive of humans and what makes us human she is. An extremely talented writer.


Have you read any of Sagan’s books? Any others you would recommend?


Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

In three words:

Round-up, Paris, WW2


What I thought:

Before reading this book I knew nothing (nor had I even heard of) The Round Up in France in 1942. On 16th July of that year, the French police dragged over 13,000 Jews from their beds and marched them to the Vel D’Hiv (a sports stadium) in Paris where they were crammed together and left with no food, water or toilet facilities for days on end. People fell ill and died in front of the families and thousands of strangers and were left humiliated at having to go to the toilet where they stood in the cramped conditions. Days later, these same Jews were marched (paraded down through the streets of Paris) on to holding camps before being separated into men, women and children (mothers torn from screaming, crying children) and taken on to the concentration camps in Germany and Poland. Now my little history lesson is over, what I loved most about this book was finding out about such a little know part of the holocaust – even more shocking because it was these families own countrymen who sent them to their deaths, not the Nazis.

Sarah’s Key is about a young girl of 10 years old who, on the morning she is awoken from her bed by the police to take her to the Vel D’Hiv, locks her 3 year old brother in a cupboard in the house, slipping the key deep into her pocket, and promises to come back for him when they are allowed to go free (which she suspects will only be a few hours). Interwoven between this little girls horrific story as the realisation hits her that she isn’t going home and that her brother is trapped alone in a black cupboard that he can’t get out of, and the story of Julia, an American woman who has lived in Paris with her French husband and daughter for the last twenty years. When Julia and her family move into a renovated house in Paris, she becomes aware of a Jewish family who once lived there and were taken during The Round Up in 1942 and she becomes obsessed with finding out more.

The author herself says that this isn’t intended to be a work of historical fiction, but a tribute to the children of vel D’Hiv, however it was the historical element that I found most compelling and what carried me through the pages. While this is undoubtebly a good book and one I looked forward to picking up, I did find the ‘modern day’ story a little contrived and even clichéd at the end (in fact, I’m pretty sure a groan escaped my lips).

Verdict: I would recommend this book as it is well worth reading about, but I have to say that had the story of the Round Up not been such fascinating (and shocking) reading for me, the book in terms of any literary merit was only pretty average.

  Have you read this book or seen the film? (I really want to see it)

  Which other books about the holocaust do you recommend?