'Bonjour Tristesse' ('Hello Sadness') tells the story of Cecile, aged 18, whose mother died when she was young so has spent most of her life in a convent. Her father, a ‘very young’ forty year old, has spent her childhood having affairs and womanising and doesn't stop when Cecile leaves school and joins him.
The two go on holiday to the south of France with her father's latest girlfriend, aged 26, Edna is a fair-skinned red headed beauty who, within days of arriving in much sunnier climes than Paris becomes sunburnt, unattractive and neglected by Cecile's father. Cecile begins a romance with a local fisherman, Cyril, following her impulses and trying to avoid boredom – a boredom which means with the changing minute she loves, then lusts after him; allowing him to fall head-over-heels for her. A few days after Edna becomes sunburnt Cecile's father invites his old ‘friend’ Anne down to stay - Anne being around his own age and the closest Cecile has gotten to having a mother. Within a few weeks of Anne arriving she has gotten engaged to Cecile's father, banned Cecile from seeing Cyril and ordered Cecile to spend her days studying for her resit examination at the end of the summer. Cecile has no intention of revising and instead spends her days plotting ways to get rid of Anne - a woman who she doesn't know if she loves or hates.
Francoise Sagan failed her exam aged 18 and decided to write this book. I think there's a strong overlap between Francoise, the writer, and Cecile, the young girl who is feeling so many emotions and doesn't quite know how to cope with them. I immediately felt like the emotions which Cecile felt were real and could relate easily - her reasons and motives behind her actions, even the day-to-day actions of no consequence had a mix of emotions which I felt was more human than her just feeling angry or upset etc. It's such a short story and so easy to read - set in the South of France there's an awful lot of sunbathing, sunshine and swimming in the sea which will make you hungry for a holiday. I'd say this was a book about emotions rather than just 'love' and as such it's a book which will have you 'feeling' rather than 'thinking'.
'I realised that I had attacked a living, sensitive creature, not just an entity. She too must once have been a rather secretive little girl, then an adolescent, and after that a woman. Now she was forty, and all alone. She loved a man, and had hoped to spend ten or twenty happy years with him. As for me.... that poor miserable face was my work.'