The Red Notebook Paperback – 23 Apr 2015
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"This is in equal parts an offbeat romance, detective story and a clarion call for metropolitans to look after their neighbours. . . . Reading The Red Notebook is a little like finding a gem among the bric-a-brac in a local brocante." ―The Telegraph
"Definitely a heartwarming tale." ―San Diego Book Review
"Resist this novel if you can; it’s the very quintessence of French romance." ―The Times
"Soaked in Parisian atmosphere, this lovely, clever, funny novel will have you rushing to the Eurostar post-haste. . . . A gem." ―Daily Mail
"An instant, flawless masterpiece of Parisian perfection." ―The Bookbag
"This tender and charming romance, written with characteristic Gallic flair, is part mystery and part love story. Flawlessly written, it does everything just right and, at the end, leaves a smile of satisfaction." ―Foreword Reviews
"Lovely, clever, funny and soaked in fabulous Parisian atmosphere, this is the perfect French holiday read." ―Daily Mail
"An endearing love story written in beautifully poetic prose. It is an enthralling mystery about chasing the unknown, the nostalgia for what could have been, and most importantly, the persistence of curiosity." ―San Francisco Book Review
"This is a warm whimsical romantic cozy in which the location and the support cast bring plausibility to Laurent’s quest that will remind the audience of the movie Serendipity." ―Midwest Book Review
"With elements of mystery, romance, and drama coupled with the effervescence and charm of Amélie, The Red Notebook is a perfectly delightful and bubbly tale." ―Typographical Era
"This is a novel you read with a smile on your face and a thirst to find out how it ends." ―Elle
About the Author
Antoine Laurain was born in Paris and is a screenwriter, antiques collector and the author of five novels, including 'The President's Hat'.
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The distinctive purple leather bag could almost be classed a character as every item contained within breathed life into its journey: from the moment it was separated from its owner in the first chapter to await discovery by a curious bookseller, Laurent Letellier. It was in plain sight so anyone could have seen it but it was the bookseller that stumbled across it and it would change the direction of his life.
I loved how a single serendipitous moment is threaded through the pages with the most charming effect. Laurent is drawn to the haphazard jottings in a little red notebook he found in the discarded bag and his growing fascination with the unknown scribbler motivates him to reunite the random private thoughts with their owner.
Analysing aspects of her personality with only a handful of personal effects as clues is the most wonderful process. ‘Things’ can appear quite ordinary by themselves but combined they create the rare fingerprint of a lady’s life as no two handbags are ever the same.
It goes without saying that being the custodian of this peculiar lost property will have its memorable moments, as invading a stranger’s privacy sparks the jealousy of Laurent’s partner and offers a surprise introduction to a cat belonging to the owner of The Red Notebook, which eventually makes him wonder if anything positive can be achieved as a result of his covert endeavours!
As a reader I knew the identity and whereabouts of the enigmatic lady in question as is was shared with me but not with Laurent. It’s the most enchanting mystery where the paths of two people crossover without them ever having met. The ending was literally a perfectly placed punctuation mark, which will become clear if you read this story for yourself.
"The Red Notebook" is a thoroughly delightful and uplifting book and I could have happily have spent more time in its company. I will be treating myself the this author's other titles very, very soon!!
Laurent Letellier, a bookshop owner in Paris, finds a purple handbag abandoned in the street. His first intention is to hand it into the police even though he thinks of the police station as one of those "purgatorial places like A& E, Customs Offices at Airports where your always better off outside even if it's raining." Laurent had never opened a woman's handbag with out "explicit instructions - a command only ever valid for a short time" but he decides to look inside the bag. He can find nothing inside it to indicate who it belonged to or how he could return it to the owner but it is full of other fascinating objects; "it was more complicated than dissecting an octopus on a kitchen table." In particular, he finds a red notebook in which the owner has filled pages with her jottings - lists of what she likes, what makes her happy, what she is afraid of, things that have caught her attention. Laurent is filled with a desire to meet this woman even though there is nothing bearing her name or any clue to her identity. "She was an enigma ...like looking at someone through a fogged up window." He is intrigued and feels some kind of connection with the woman - and so begins his search, a search which comes to symbolise something more powerful and leads him to something much more significant than just returning a missing handbag.
Meanwhile there are snapshots of the mysterious owner, lying in hospital following her attack when the handbag was stolen from her. Words like "head injury" and "coma" float into her subconsciousness but she remains unable to wake and let the nurses know who she is. "No sound came out of her mouth," and in her dream like unconscious state she imagines herself to be in a garden with her deceased parents. Memories flicker and float through the sections about the woman who we learn is called Laure, implying a past of grief and pain.
Laurent's daughter gives him an astute analysis of the kind of woman she thinks owned the handbag: "She is in her 40s, judging by her choice of makeup and chic designer handbag....she's attached to the past as her mirror is ancient.... Are you in love?" she deduces, realising that from the objects in front of her, this could indeed be her father's perfect woman.
The book is filled with lyrical writing and insightful observations. For example:"If there was one thing that defined adolescence it was hysterical laughter. In adolescence the brutal realisation that the world and life were completely absurd made you laugh until you couldn't catch your breath whereas in later life, it only results in a weary sigh."
There are also many musings and reflections about relationships and love. "How easy it was to disappear from someone else's life....a chance meeting, a few words exchanged, and a relationship begins. A chance falling out, a few words exchanged and that same relationship is over." This is a book about love, chance meetings, things that could have been. The author writes about having a nostalgia for something that hasn't happened and I like this idea that we can experience a nostalgia for what might have been. He writes about how easy it is for things to "pass by", something important like a job, a love, a move and how we can grab "fragments of what might have been like catching snatches of a far off radio frequency." The author's writing is simple and concise, yet rich and resonant.
The ending of the book is perfect. Like a fairy story, it links all the characters and threads together through literature. We are like spirits gazing down on the city and floating over them, then moving away to leave them to "experience" their lives. This is a story of searching, of love, of belonging, of connections, of chances and the way we can "pass by" people so close "that something of the experience remains" and touches us. The best word to describe the story is charming and it is a real gem. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is a short, easy read and if you enjoyed "The Reader on the 6.27" or are fans of writers like Graham Swift, you will love this book. Highly recommend!
The following morning, Laurent, the owner of a Paris bookshop called The Cahier Rouge - and yes that does make you assume at the outset that this is the notebook of the title, but it’s not - who finds the discarded handbag and then seeks to return it to its rightful owner.
This is the best romance novel that I have read in decades. The constant ’will they, won’t they’ question kept me on the edge of my seat. The Paris location as a setting is perfect and beautifully described. The characters walk off the page and I found myself so utterly immersed in the story that I read it in one day.