REVIEW: A Certain Smile by Francoise Sagan

I love Francoise Sagan. Bonjour Tristesse was a favourite when I was in my teens and her coming of age novels have a certain je ne sais quoi (sorry). She was only a teenager herself when she wrote it.

Sagan wrote more than 20 novels, three collections of short stories, several plays, a ballet and a number of autobiographical works. This is the second of her novels and was published in 1955, a year after Bonjour Tristesse.

Sagan’s characters in this book take the same theme as in her first novel – they are mainly bourgeoise and disillusioned.

In A Certain Smile, Dominique is a university student enjoying the student life in 1950s’ Paris. She has a boyfriend Bertrand who cares a lot more about her than she does about him. In fact, Dominique doesn’t really care much about anything.

Bertrand introduces her to his uncle Luc and Francoise, Luc’s wife, and in Luc Dominique finds someone who is just as listless as she is. There is an instant attraction between the two. They recognise their like-mindedness.

Despite the fact that she adores Francoise, Dominique embarks on an affair with Luc, firstly having clandestine meetings in bars and hotels and eventually heading off to spend two weeks in a hotel in the south of France with him.

This is a story of a doomed love affair between a young woman and an older married man and, although Dominique knows it is likely to end badly, she isn’t prepared for the emotional fallout.

Sagan writes with a lightness of touch and an expertly sparing prose that belies the fact she was so young when she penned her first novels.

You are drawn into the world of illicit love affairs and the thoughts of this young girl and her emotional turmoil.

If you loved Bonjour Tristesse, read this. Although probably not back to back because there is a certain similarity between the two.

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