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Bonjour Tristesse: Cecile, the heroine of Francoise Sagan's first novel, is the wayward seventeen-year-old daughter of rich, handsome, profligate Raymond. Since Cecile's mother's death, Raymond has had a succession of young mistresses - some lasting longer than others, and some nicer than others - but none of these women has ever come between Cecile and her adored father. That is until one blisteringly hot summer when holidaying on the Riviera, Cecile, Raymond and Raymond's current mistress, Elsa, are visited by Anne, a glamorous and very beautiful woman in her forties, an old friend of Cecile's mother and a very different kind of woman to those Raymond usually spends his time with. Raymond, affected deeply by Anne's beauty, her quiet sophistication, and by her desire to take Cecile kindly, but firmly in hand, soon finds himself proposing to Anne and, in consequence, Elsa finds herself in the unenviable position of the discarded mistress. And it is not only Elsa who is upset by Raymond's proposal, because Cecile, worried that Anne's quiet intelligence and common sense will have a sobering effect on her father, and on their amoral and hedonistic lifestyle, decides she must do something to prevent the marriage. And when Anne attempts to stop Cecile becoming involved with Cyril, a good-looking young man who is very attracted to Cecile, she (Cecile) puts a plan in action that has devastating results.

A Certain Smile: Dominique, the heroine of Sagan's second novel, is a law student studying at the Sorbonne, who becomes bored with her unexciting lover, Bernard, and when she is introduced to his handsome and worldly uncle, Luc, she finds herself becoming very attracted to the older and wiser man. Luc is married to the kind and charming Francoise, a woman Dominique admires and of whom she becomes very fond, especially when the older woman takes her under her wing. Luc, aware of the attraction between himself and Dominique, professes his love for Francoise and tells Dominique he would never leave his wife, but that does not stop him from making advances to Dominique - and, despite Dominique's fondness for Francoise, this does not stop her from responding to Luc's ardour. After Luc and Dominique spend a fortnight together in an hotel in Cannes, Dominique finds herself becoming more involved with Luc than she had anticipated and when it is time for Luc to return home to Francoise, Dominique finds herself in a rather difficult situation and one which she must struggle to resolve.

In many ways 'A Certain Smile' is considered to be a sequel to 'Bonjour Tristesse' and, as commented in Rachel Cusk's introduction, several familiar themes are present in both novels: the existential undertones; the amorality or aberrant morality; the main protagonist's search for the mother/mother figure; the ambiguity of the father/uncle/lover figure; a young woman's attempt to control and manipulate the situation around her. Published in 1954 when the author was only eighteen, 'Bonjour Tristesse' appeared at a time when teenagers were first beginning to emerge as a distinct social group and this novel and 'A Certain Smile' published two years later, both shocked and delighted the reading public of the time. I first read these novels decades later in Paris, when I was fifteen, and was entranced - and thinking about it, that was most probably the best time and place to read them - however, on re-reading both of these books many years later (and now with a little more critical analysis), I can say that although these stories are not peopled with very sympathetic characters, I was still captivated reading about them, I enjoyed both novels and I am still impressed with the author's writing skills. Buried somewhere on my 'to be read' bookcase, I have a couple of Sagan's later novels: That Mad Ache: A Novel and: The Unmade Bed (Modern Voices) and re-reading 'Bonjour Tristesse' and 'A Certain Smile' has made me keen to dig out those other titles and finally get around to reading them.
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on 3 April 2014
Did you realise that this famous novel first appeared over here in 1955? Originally, some "naughty scenes" were removed for English publication, but not now. This comes with a new translation, and a renewed chance to be amazed anew. This is still a remarkable achievement for a first novel, and by an author who was only 18. If you haven't before, discover it. If you've read it before, maybe long ago, read it again. Its embrace is still clinging.
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on 27 August 2015
Classic book, quite brilliant as a debut novel, surprisingly humorous and ironic sometimes.This isa good translation.
read it for my Book group yet to take pace so will be intersting to see what others think.
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on 12 September 2013
a choice for my reading group, a good read, tender and full of charm. Evokes its time, you can really image yourself there.
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on 7 March 2014
Sadly this review will detract from the overall customer rating: especially since it does not reflect my admiration for this perceptive and dramatically nuanced classic. But the applied sticker on the cover [A New Translation] cannot be removed without also damaging the cover itself. It seems odd to me that many publishers commission fine cover designs, only to deface them with inane marketing puffery. The purchased copy was intended as a gift, but its now unsuitable. To Penguin --- basta! if you must persist in this then use a low tack adhesive. Stand up all readers who concur...
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on 13 March 2014
A great quick read with incredible depth of thought and feeling in an author so young. Easy few hours' thoughtful reading.
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on 15 August 2016
A nice light read, it nicely conveys the culture of the time. It's a simple morality tale with a somewhat predictable ending.
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on 28 May 2016
What a wonderful story,so well written,by such a young author,teenage angst at it's best,a must read,a modern classic.
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on 28 December 2014
An excellent book, very insightful. I read it a while ago, but often reflect on the content.
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on 26 January 2016
A book that is realistic psychologically, in that moods and feelings can overcome us, especially when adolescent... and what we think true/ relevant one minute evaporates the next. Like light and shade moving across a field on a sunny, but cloudy day. The only thing which can "Power through" such transitory feelings is extremes of love, or hate. And Cecile in the novel has reason to feel both. Living a frivilous life with her father and his ever changing mistresses... the steady, dignified, superior and condescending Anna arrives in their world. She aims not only to marry Raymond, (Cecile's father), but to improve both Father and errant child, and deny Cecile a teenage romance with Cyril. This stirs in Cecile a plot for revenge. Excellent book written when Francoise Sagan was herself a teenage dropout.
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