A Certain Smile superficial as lip gloss

Françoise Sagan published her first bestseller at 18, then repeated the feat at 20 with A Certain Smile.

The novel is presumed to show how young people view the world.

A Certain Smile by Françoise Sagan

Trans. by Anne Green. E.P. Dutton, 1956. 128 pp. My grade: C-.

cover of paaerback that includes Francoise Sagan's first two published novelsI suspect it was the youthfulness of the author rather than the brilliance of the novel that was the selling point.

As the story opens, Dominique is involved with a fellow Sorbonne student, Bertrand, who she finds boring outside of bed.

Bertrand introduces her to his uncle and aunt.

The aunt, a warm, motherly figure, becomes her friend.

The uncle, Luc, becomes her lover.

They spend two weeks together at a Cannes hotel, returning to Paris to find Luc’s wife has learned of their affair.

Dominique knows Luc does not love her, that he merely uses her, but that doesn’t stop her from loving him — or at least from wanting him as her primary sexual partner.

Dominique’s real passion is Dominique.

She wants the world to revolve around her, but she is so shallow the world alternately uses her and pities her.

Folks older and wiser than Dominque will make a wide detour around this novel.

If Sagan speaks for youth, the world’s in deep do-do.

 © 2016 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Bonjour Tristesse. Bonjour boredom.

I finished reading Françoise Sagan’s Bonjour Tristesse around 4 p.m. By 9 that evening, I couldn’t recall the plot.

And that was my second reading of this 95-page novel.

 Bonjour Tristesse: A Novel by Françoise Sagan

Initial publication by Éditions Rene Julliard, 1954. This edition:  Bonjour Tristesse  and A Certain Smile, Intro. by Rachel Cusk; Trans by Irene Ash.   Penguin Books Modern Classics, 2007. 95 pages.  1955 bestseller #4.  My grade C+.


cover of papaerback that includes Frncoise Sagan's first two published novelsSeventeen-year-old Cécile, her widowed father, and Elsa, his mistress of the moment, are vacationing at a Mediterranean villa.

Cécile “fears boredom and tranquility more than anything.”

Raymond invites Anne Larsen, a friend of his late wife, to visit, to share his bed, and to marry him.

Elsa leaves and takes up with another man.

Cécile is sure Anne would turn her and her father into “two civilized, well-behaved and happy people.” Rather than have that happen, Cécile has sex with the boy next door and then gets him and to pretend to be having an affair with Elsa.

That makes Raymond jealous; he tries to reclaim Elsa.

Anne thinks she’s been ousted.

She drives her car off a cliff.

Everyone lives happily ever after except Anne, who is dead.

Sagan was 18 when she published Bonjour Tristesse. The young woman had talent.

Even in translation the sentences are poetic.  But the characters are flat, the plot adolescent.

You’ve got better things to do in the next 90 minutes than read Bonjour Tristesse.

©2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni