The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain
Heroic bookseller Laurent Letellier comes across an abandoned handbag on a Parisian street. There’s nothing in the bag to indicate who it belongs to, although there’s all sorts of other things in it. Laurent feels a strong impulse to find the owner and tries to puzzle together who she might be from the contents of the bag. Especially a red notebook with her jottings, which really makes him want to meet her. Without even a name to go on, and only a few of her possessions to help him, how is he to find one woman in a city of millions?
My Review: 3.5 stars
The Red Notebook is a thoughtful and charming story about one man’s quest to find a woman that he doesn’t know. A bit Sleepless in Seattle and a touch of While You Were Sleeping in that they both evoke a love story between strangers. This book has the added bonus of Parisian streets, many literary references, a bookseller and of course, the promise of romance.
In a slight book, there is much brought to the table in prose that is meaningful and succinct. I loved Laurent’s voice. I was curious though about many of the books he discussed, as I know very little about the French classics or authors. His stalking of an author to glean information about the woman in question was one of my favorite parts. I also got a chuckle that the woman’s job was as a gilder; only in Paris would that seem so commonplace.
Why this book isn’t considered a novella, I’m not quite sure. I’m certain that it fits all the criteria for a novella, but perhaps that an off-putting sales point. My book club is discussing this book and I’m curious to see how much conversation can be induced from this story. I see this as a great book to gift to someone or for yourself, curled up with a glass of Bordeaux while you’re transported to Paris.
Readers who enjoy simple characters with real emotions and a good dollop of romance and chivalry will highly enjoy this novel(la).
Quotes I liked:
For some unknown reason, we never gave in to the exquisite vertigo that you feel when you move those few centimetres towards the face of the other for the first kiss.”
-“For a man should never go through a woman’s handbag-even the most remote tribe would adhere to that ancestral rule.”
-“If there was one thing that defined adolescence it was hysterical laughter. You never laughed like that again. 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 would only result in a weary sigh.”