The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain

Category Books

A novella. Not my choice, but I hope to join a reading group which will be discussing this book.

There are two cities called Paris, the city that gets all the headlines, the city of Charlie Hebdo, of the Bataclan attacks. The city where Francois Hollande prances around, a vain peacock, and where Marie le Pen aims to replace M. Holland. And the other city called Paris, where the Seine sweeps through gently, the city of light, the city of culture, with cafes and small shops, a city where beauty and culture are appreciated. Are they really the same place? Laurent Letellier crossed over from one city to the other, when he swapped a career in banking to running a book shop with living accommodation above. This is the Paris of Laure Valadier also. Laure is a gilder. She is also an elegant French woman, as indeed all French women are supposed to be. Laure dresses well. Lives on her own (well, there is a cat, Belphégor, who is central to the story).


The separate worlds of Laure and Laurent collide one night when Laure is mugged, a vicious assault that leaves her in a coma and Laurent finds her discarded handbag (a beautiful, expensive mauve handbag), a bag containing Laure’s life but without keys, money or phone. Laurent resolves to return the bag to its owner, having read the red notebook in the bag (this is where I take exception – a red moleskin notebook in a mauve handbag?).

Laurain treads a delicate path through this story. Laurent, in his quest, could quite easily be mistaken for a stalker, but it is Laure who initiates the contact at the end of the book.

I found this book an enjoyable read, but I needed to read it twice. The first time I galloped through to find out what happened. The second time was a more leisurely read, and I delighted in so many things, the references to Modiano (Accident Nocturne or Paris Nocturne is definitely on my reading list), the question of memory. Plus I need to know just what is a pot au feu. The book is short, but us a delight to read. Highly recommended.