The Red Notebook

The Red Notebook

Title:  The Red Notebook
Author:  Antoine Laurain
Publisher:  Gallic
Publication Date:  2014
ISBN:  978-1-908313-86-7

Book Summary:
As Laure arrives home late at night, she is mugged and her purse is stolen.  Although her head was knocked against the wall, she is more distraught about the loss of her purse and all the memories . . . her entire life . . . that the purse contained.  She stumbles across the street to a small hotel and begs for a room, explaining what happened and her intent to contact a friend who has a key to let her in the next morning.  She looks out the window across the street to her flat and can see her cat sitting in the window.  In the morning, when she doesn’t answer the door, the maid finds her unconscious.

While walking to a local café to enjoy a morning espresso, bookseller Laurent discovers a discarded purse in the rubbish bin.  A beautiful purse, Laurent feels that no one would just throw it away.  With his mother’s words that “a man should never go through a woman’s handbag” haunting his thoughts, he takes the purse to his home.  With great apprehension, Laurent opens the purse in an attempt to discover the owner.  He finds no wallet or cell phone, but instead a myriad of objects that define the woman who owns the purse: a lipstick tube, an envelope of photographs, a few smooth stones, an autographed copy of a well-known writer, a generic dry-cleaner receipt, and a red notebook full of the owner’s thoughts, dreams, fears, and desires.

With nothing but the items in the purse, Laurent is intent upon finding the owner of the purse.  He wants to return her belongings, but more importantly he wants to meet the woman behind the words in the red notebook.  And so, a quest through Paris begins.

Book Commentary:
One of the most enjoyable books I have read in a very long time.  A beautiful story, part romance, part mystery, part quest-adventure, and all Parisian.  At only 159 pages, it is a quick read but an absolutely beautiful story.  Written in very short bursts of chapters, the story fluctuates between Laure, Laurent, and numerous other people who are part of their lives.  I am so impressed at the skill of the author to create such depth in his characters though the lives of the other characters.

Written originally in French, there are numerous subtle nuances of Parisian life and culture.  As I have mentioned previously, France has never been on my list of places that I want to visit but recently as I have read so many books set in France, my interest is piqued.  I am curious how those who have visited this country and Paris in particular would enjoy this book.  There is a fair about of satire about modern life that was both poignant and mildly embarrassing as the author truly grasps the flaws and foibles of humanity.

The mystery lover in me thoroughly enjoyed how Laurent, not even a novice detective, uses the items in Laure’s purse to discover who she is and what the items say about her personality and character.  He seems to fall in love with this woman he has never met simply through what is represented in her purse.  It makes me wonder what people would think of me based on the contents of my purse!!

The romantic in me loves how Laurent painstakingly searches for Laure and how his analysis of each of the items in her purse guides his pursuit; a pursuit for the owner, but also a quest in which he discovers so much about himself as well.

Who might like this book:
Like I mentioned, it is a quick read for anyone who likes a simple life mystery, a sweet love story, or an immersion into Parisian life.  But don’t think this is a unassuming book; the depth of human frailty and desire, the question of who we are and where are lives take us, the items that represent our lives, beliefs, and passions are all presented in a straightforward, and at times, brutally honest manner.  I haven’t been touched by a book this much in a while.

The author has written another book, The President’s Hat about President François Mitterrand’s hat, that I am very excited to read, and French Rhapsody to be released in October 2016.

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