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This review is from: Bonjour Tristesse (Penguin Great Loves) (Paperback)
So, the first thing that needs to be said is...Francoise Sagan wrote this when she was only 18!!!
That, in and of itself, is quite the achievement and I was even more impressed with the story upon knowing that. Back in the 1950's, this book scandalized France, but nowadays it appears quite tame compared to some of the things out there. Plot wise, this seems like a very ordinary tale told and retold about a hundred million times in a hundred million different ways. However, it is only when you delve into it and read more about it that you start to grasp the complexity of the novel and the sheer depth of it.
Cécile, seventeen at the time, spends her summer in a villa on the French Riviera with her father and his mistress. Her father, Raymond, is the Don Juan of his days - a worldly man who has had many affairs. His latest is the redhead Elsa Mackenbourg, a typical young, fashionable and superficial woman. Soon after, Anne Larsen, Cécile's late mother's friend, appears to spend the summer with them as well - invited by Raymond himself. She is the complete opposite of Elsa, in fact, she represents everything that is NOT Raymond and Cécile - cultured, educated, principled, intelligent, mature and older! Through a series of events, Raymond finally leaves Elsa for Anne, and even more shocking, he decides to settle down with Anne! At first, Cécile admires Anne, but soon a struggle for control pushes Cécile to devise a plan to prevent the marriage by manipulating her current lover Cyril and her father's past mistress, Elsa.
Reading more into this small novel, you learn to appreciate all the symbolism such as that of the sun and the sea. The sun representing a paternal figure, and the sea representing a maternal one. After an argument with Anne, Cécile runs towards the sea (like a child running to their mother).
An emotionally deep story, that can be easily read in a few hours time.