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Bonjour Tristesse: A Novel [Paperback]

Francoise Sagan
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 9 2008 P.S.

Endearing, self-absorbed, seventeen-year-old Cécile is the very essence of untroubled amorality. Freed from the stifling constraints of boarding school, she joins her father—a handsome, still-young widower with a wandering eye—for a carefree, two-month summer vacation in a beautiful villa outside of Paris with his latest mistress, Elsa. Cécile cherishes the free-spirited moments she and her father share, while plotting her own sexual adventures with a "tall and almost beautiful" law student. But the arrival of her late mother's best friend, Anne, intrudes upon a young girl's pleasures. And when a relationship begins to develop between the adults, Cécile and her lover set in motion a plan to keep them apart...with tragic, unexpected consequences.

The internationally beloved story of a precocious teenager's attempts to understand and control the world around her, Françoise Sagan's Bonjour Tristesse is a beautifully composed, wonderfully ambiguous celebration of sexual liberation, at once sympathetic and powerfully unsparing.

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About the Author

Françoise Sagan (1935-2004) was only eighteen when her first novel, Bonjour Tristesse, was published. Her other novels include Incidental Music, A Certain Smile, and The Painted Lady.

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A STRANGE MELANCHOLY pervades me to which I hesitate to give the grave and beautiful name of sorrow. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars fun, but preposterous Jan. 25 2004
This is a French classic, so it behooves any serious francophile to read it. And it definitely is an amazing achievement for an 18 year old author. But it takes nearly half the book for the dramatic tension to appear. And the way it is handled shows the immaturity of the author. The dramatic turns are silly and shallow and unbelievable, cartoonish. Nonetheless, Sagan does show occasional flashes of pretty and pleasing humor, insight and poignancy.
And this book really is more of a short story than a novella. The first half of the book could easily have been edited down to one third of its length, hence making it something more suitable for inclusion in short story collections.
And one should bear in mind that much of the initial popularity of this book was due, I'm sure, to fairly crass and prurient reasons. The sex, and especially the teen sex, that is described seems very tame by todays standards. So this book really is quite dated and even antique. In a way, it reminds me of an old scratched Elvis 45. It's so hard to imagine nowadays how anyone could have gotten that worked up about it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not a girl, not yet a woman Nov. 23 2003
'Bonjour Tristesse' is a typical French coming-of-age story. Written in the 1950s' it was an instantaneous scandal for dealing so clearly with teenagers and their sexuality. The times have change, we see the world in a different way, adolescents are the same, but this novel still holds the interest.
Cécile is a precocious seventeen-year-old girl who travels to the French Riviera in the company of her father and his mistress. She is used to having different women around with her father all the time. But when he decides to marry one of them, Cécile and her lover Cyril decide to do something to stop him. Meanwhile, she is also learning about life, love, sex and pleasures. All these life-changing experiences will make the girl grow up towards to womanhood.
Françoise Sagan writes about something she knew, and it makes the book very interesting to read. Her prose never sounds fake or far-fetched. Although, it is a little dated --some of Cécile's acts that were daring by that day are just 'normal' nowadays-- it has not lost its freshness. The Riviera settings are beautifully described, and we're often asking what the girl will do next.
It is undeniable it is a novel about that time in our lives when we're not a child any more and not yet an adult. With a mind filled with questions, we're trying to define who we are and will be in the future to come. Cécile has to face tragic events to understand what her life is and what it will be like for the next years. While many consider her being a spoilt little brat, this is the time when she is forced to stop being that, and see she won't have her father papering her forever.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Novella of Adolescence! Jan. 26 2003
This is a subtle novella of 17-year-old Cécile, recently released from a convent school and enjoying a semi-dissolute life while living with her playboy father and his mistress de jour, Elsa. She lives only for the day, and is untroubled by her failure on her examination. She is looking forward to years of pleasure and irresponsibility, until Anne, a friend of her mother's comes onto the scene and endeavors to change, nay tame, Cécile and her father.
The conflict begins with Anne's response to Cécile's throwaway remark that the young girl makes when her father and mistress adjourn for an erotic interlude, which the older woman found to be vulgar. Cécile soon finds that Anne has made her (Cécile) one of her projects. The plot thickens, much like the motif of the summer's heat and humidity in the southern France setting of this novella. Cécile has her own agenda, including havig a love affair with a young legal student.
This simple novella by Françoise Sagan makes a nice story in describing how her teenaged protagonist reacts toward being tamed by the serious and possibly officious older woman. All of the major characters are well-drawn, and we are lured into a sympathy for each. It has the tone of tragic inevitability that makes the dénouement ring true; but is quite lyric and compelling. Sagan rings true in her sense of the adolescent, and BONJOUR TRISTESSE makes for a very rewarding work to read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Innocence Sidelined Sept. 6 2002
By A Customer
Francoise Sagan is a brilliant French writer, who here has written an intriguing novel about a young lady's 'coming-of-age' while on Holiday by the sea. What I appreciate about Sagan's works most of all is her style. She writes very subtly, almost tenderly at times, but what comes out of these impressions is incredible clarity into the inner human workings ans spirit. She deals with huge and incredibly moving emotional matters and life-changing experiences with the grace of an unassuming, yet very beautiful bouquet. Perhaps only French writers writing in French can do this (but this English translation maintains some of the original affect). It's like the hidden waters of the subconscious are feeding Sagan's stories, and especially 'Bonjour Tristesse' with eternal messages about life, love, fear, uncertainty, and Destiny. The parvenu paramour in 'Bonjour Tristesse' finds love without becoming jaded by the experience. Yet, she leaves us with elegaic afterthoughts. This is just brilliant literature.
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