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on 19 May 2015
Everything begins when Daniel Mercier sits down for dinner on the table next to the French President, Francois Mitterrand. When the president gets up to leave, he leaves behind his hat. Daniel seizes the opportunity and takes the hat with him as he leaves.

When he wears the hat, Daniel seems to feel different somehow. He’s more emboldened, more confident, more direct and ultimately more successful. It’s as though putting the hat on his head has allowed him to come out of his shell and become the person he should always have been. Astonished by his good luck, Daniel clings to the hat as a symbol of everything he’s achieved. That is, until he leaves the hat on the train and it’s picked up by a new wearer, who might just need a little inspiration of her own.

From here, the hat continues to change hands while Daniel continues his hunt to get it back again. Wearing the hat seems to give each character the motivation they need to make changes in their lives. As readers, we’re left to wonder whether this newfound confidence really comes from the hat, or if the hat is just a catalyst that unlocks what was there all along.

It also raises the question of fate, and how we have the ability to make our destinies and to carve out the path that we want, even if it might seem impossible.

However, each wearer has their own tale to tell and as a result, ‘The President’s Hat’ reads less like a novel and more like a collection of short stories all tied together by a single thread. It’s not until about half way through that they start to link together. Each separate part of the story was enjoyable in itself, but just as I started to get to know one character, they disappeared and the story moved on to a new one.

The book was clever, whimsical and charming in a way. But it was a really short read and I just didn’t feel like there was much to it. Not a huge amount happens and I don’t really have strong feelings about this book either way. Because it was so short, I’m not sure I can really say I enjoyed it. Maybe I should have read the blurb better before starting it, but I was left wanting more of a meaty story to get my teeth into.
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on 4 November 2014
Daniel Mercier finds himself alone in Paris whilst his wife and son are away. On the spur of the moment he decides to visit a brasserie. Whilst eating President Mitterrand sits down at the table next to him. As Mitterrand leaves the restaurant, he leaves behind his black Homburg hat. On the spur of the moment Daniel keeps the hat for himself. As he begins to wear the hat he notices a change come over him. Could it be the hat?

This is a short novel, only 208 pages and is a charming concept; following the journey of a hat from the head of the Head of State all the way to that of a middle aged French aristocrat. Each new wearer of the black felt headpiece begins to act in a way they would not have before, or discover a new lease for life. Some, like Daniel, attribute the change to the hat, others are unaware of its effect.

There is a magical, almost fairy tale like quality to this book. This is in some part due to the setting of Paris but also to the writing style of Laurain. The book feels almost like a series of short stories, each one linked by a common theme. The snapshot into each life is brief but also well rounded, you get a feel for each character in a short space of time. In fact I soon found it easy to establish who were favoured characters and who I did not feel for too much. Daniel for example, felt to me to be a needy character, easily led and one who does not stand up for himself. He is also obsessive to the point that it becomes unhealthy and has a very understanding wife. It is however a joy to see how each character changes as the story progresses. The epilogue nicely fleshes out and finishes the story, completing the picture as a whole.

The story is set in the 1980s and features real life characters, interspersing the fictional ones. This adds to the surreal feeling of the novel, being never quite sure who is real and who imagined. I am looking forward to Laurain's next book The Red Notebook, which is published by Gallic Books in 2015.
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on 31 July 2016
This is such a charming little read. A simple, but quite intriguing premise - President Mitterand has lost his hat and it now sits on the head of the diner who sat on the next table to him in the restaurant. Can the hat (and a little of Mitterand's confidence) rub off on its new wearer? Life-changing moments are in store for the succession of people who wear the hat.

The story is a sequence of vignettes held together by the hat, which is passed on, oft times accidentally, from one needy person to the next. A really delightful, French read that doesn't lose its charm in the translation. A sweet and enjoyable tale with a pleasing end.

I would also recommend The Red Notebook by the same author - which is a little more on the romantic side.
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on 13 October 2016
Set in Paris, Rouen and Venice this story follows the lives of several people who have temporary ownership of President Mitterand’s hat after he leaves it in a Paris restaurant one evening.
Whimsical throughout, the story does demonstrate on various levels that we can all achieve great things if we put our minds to it.
A very enjoyable read that kept me chuckling to the end.
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VINE VOICEon 6 July 2013
Immediately, Daniel is a character who is easy to connect to. He is in a restaurant having a rare "bachelor evening" when Francois Mitterrand sits on the table next to him. FM leaves without his hat and Daniel, in an unusual moment of impulse, decides to take it.
I have had bad experiences with translations, as this is, of late but was completely delighted with this book. The description of inner feelings is amazing and I found myself rereading some sections to make sure I had picked up every word.
It is a small book (approx 200 pages) with very short chapters, making for a quick read.
The hat passes from person to person and the book seems to be becoming a series of related short stories. I started to feel a bit disappointed with that idea as I felt I wanted to know more about each of the characters, so was delighted that the book is more complex. There is a bit of mystery, a bit of magic and a lot of Paris, all mixed up with great dollops of positivity.
The story is set in 1986/87 and there are many nostalgic references to the era. The setting is quite subtle and does not take over the plot but is a definite period.
Well worth reading for something a bit different.
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on 12 October 2015
An inspirational idea and one of the most emotionally undemanding pieces of fiction I've ever read. The hat - the main protagonist - lives a life of its own, things are what they are; it is what it is. The forensic parade of fashion, fragrances, 'objets', social ritual of mid 1980s Paris makes the reader feel detached from the text. So does the curious chronology of the epilogue - as if we the readers had formed even the flimsiest of relationships with any of the 'walk-on' parts. It's the hat we love dahling! The nearest I got to empathizing with the rest of the cast, and with a hearty guffaw at that, was when Pierre, bending - presumably under existential pressure from the hat - agonizes with the gardener over the burning of his sheepskin jacket. 'Why do you want to burn it?' '...because I need to' replies P!
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VINE VOICEon 21 March 2015
An enchanting story - highly unusual - centering around a hat left behind in a restaurant, picked up by someone who then finds it changes his life but also proceeds to leave it somewhere, leading to yet another life-changing situation for the next wearer, and so on. It is beautifully written and quite delightful. Easy to read, it makes you want to stay with it to the end without taking a breather. Each character that "inherits" the hat is fascinating in their own right and you want to know more about them and their lives. Highly recommended.
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on 5 July 2015
This won't set the world afire, but then few books will. If however you read for the pleasure of encountering a few new ideas, as I do, with maybe a smile or two to help things down, then this seems a good place to go.
An interesting conceit, unlikely but not wholly ridiculous, concerning the successive possessors of a hat. To tell much more would be to spoil the plot, and that would be a shame as it really is quite (but quiet) fun. A good read for a hot afternoon with feet up and a glass of lemonade.
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on 23 September 2013
The notes that accompany the book are very interesting, and they answer some of the questions that came to me as a reader of the novel. Is it real? It felt like it could be, or even should be.
This is a perfect little story, little in length, but big in stature.
Essentially it tells the story of how President Mitterand's hat is lost, and it's journey before finally returning to him.
On the way it impacts greatly on the lives of those it touches.
It had shades of Dan Rhodes (possibly it's the other way around), in the way it gave small vignettes of its characters. This (for me) was no bad thing, and I found myself entranced by this great book.
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on 4 April 2014
Some of the best stories are the most simple ones. The concept of the a life changing hat was brilliant and the prose, light and easy. I loved the characters - all of them endearing and unique in their own way. It had just the right balance of seriousness, humour and adventure and you just had to keep turning the pages because you wanted to know where the hat ended up. If you want to know - you'll have to read it yourself :0)

I highly recommend this as an uncomplicated and enjoyable read and excellent if you're looking for something short and sweet for your getaway this summer.
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