That's how I feel about the work of Antoine Laurain, the author of several books translated from the French including the ones I mention here -- "The Red Notebook," "The President's Hat," "Vintage 1954" and "The Portrait." A little fantasy but very real types of people, happy endings and a lot of joy -- I need that these days!
|Antoine Laurain (source: Wikipedia)|
Laurain may be known to some as a novelist, screenwriter, film director and journalist. Born and bred in Paris, he studied film and his first "occupation"was writing screenplays and directly short films. But what I find especially intriguing about him, particularly when considering his books, is that he is a collector of things and at one time early in his career, assisted a Paris antiques dealer.
According to his biography on Belgravia Books, that experience inspired his first novel, "The Portrait," which was the most recent read of the four here. The premise is simple, a well-to-do married attorney with a passion for collecting buys a portrait at auction of a man in 17th century dress at an outrageous price. It captures his eye because he believes it looks exactly like him but to his chagrin, his wife or friends see no resemblance, which frustrates him. He ventures forth to learn more about the subject of the painting. Could it be it is a relative? Or even more unlikely, could it be that he is recognized as the long-missing Comte of a grand vineyard? It's a bit of time travel and fantasy and sheer delight.
His next book, "The President's Hat," received the Prix Landerneau Decouvertes and more. The premise is simple -- While dining at a restaurant, French president Mitterand leaves behind his hat. The gentleman dining next to him, rather than returning it, wears it home and finds that things that had been amiss improve dramatically. He is crushed when he leaves it on a train, only to have it found by a woman in different but equally difficult straits. It's power allows her to make life changing decisions. The hat passes on to other owners before it is joined back with Mitterand, each experiencing a significant change in their lives. Was it really the hat that made the difference? Or was it the wearing of the hat that gave each owner a bit of confidence and bravado?
Several years later, in 2015, "The Red Notebook" (still my favorite) became one of Gallic Books' best sellers in the K and the USA. There's a bit less "magic" in this one but so much heart. A woman is mugged, her purse stolen and trashed. The money is gone, but a bookstore owner finds the bag and becomes obsessed with finding the woman whose red notebook is so fascinating to him. Little does he know that she has suffered a head injury from the attack and is in the hospital. Of course, we know it will be a happy ending -- but how the pair finally connect with one another is a most delightful journey.
Finally, "Vintage 1954"takes us into the world of wine and time travel, another delightful fantasy. It turns out that the vintner who tasted a bottle of the 1954 vintage claimed forever to have encounters with aliens and traveling to another time. It is a story that intrigues his great grandson, Julian. When Julian, a young woman of whom he is fond, the owner of their apartment building and a tourist drink a bottle of the wine that the owner discovers in his cellar, the four find themselves in a new old world, the world of 1954, where they connect with such luminaries as a young Audrey Hepburn, Salvador Dali and Edith Piaf. Will they be able to find their way back to 1917? Of course they will -- but how? And did the journey change them?
I've not read other Laurain books but I will. His upbeat fantasy connects real life to dreams. No trolls or Hobbits or elves. These are real people in unreal circumstances -- that maybe could happen to anyone.
This post is part of Paris in July, a collection of blog posts hosted by Tamara at Thyme for Tea. Visit this link to check out other posts related to the books, music, films, sights and more in the City of Light.
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