sagan paris 1954 book coverReviewed by Nina Longfield

Sagan, Paris 1954 is a story about a young woman who writes a novel. That author is Francoise Sagan. Her novel is Bonjour Tristesse. Within Sagan, Paris 1954, Anne Berest brings to life Francoise Sagan’s journey from unknown teenager trying to find a publisher for her novel to the toast of the French literary scene within a year. Berest breathes life into Francoise Sagan’s character. Sagan is, at times, an average teenager on the cusp of adulthood then at other times seemingly wise beyond her eighteen years. Berest draws her sketches from Sagan’s writings, interviews, letters, and interviews with those who knew Francoise Sagan.

Outward appearances suggest Sagan, Paris 1954 by Anne Berest is a biography about the French novelist Francoise Sagan and the publication of her book Bonjour Tristesse. And it is a type of lyrical homage to both the writer and the book, but Sagan, Paris 1954 is also about Anne Berest and her personal struggles at the time of writing about Francoise Sagan. Berest gives the reader Sagan’s life in scenes and flashes. Through the mix of sketches, the reader also learns about Berest and the esteem she feels for her subject. Berest interjects her own opinions and personal life into the story creating a rich mixture of biography, memoir, French post-war history, and literary commentary. Sagan, Paris 1954 is well worth reading even if you have never heard of Francoise Sagan.

When I started Anne Berest’s commemorative little book, I had not heard of Francoise Sagan or her book, Bonjour Tristesse beyond the description on the back cover of Sagan, Paris 1954. I love discovering writers, both new and established. For me, Sagan, Paris 1954, is a discovery of two authors, Francoise Sagan and Anne Berest. I chose to read Sagan, Paris 1954 through the book’s description of a fearless young woman’s seemingly overnight rise to literary stardom during the overshadowing gloom of Paris after the war.

I greatly enjoyed reading Berest’s book and learning a little about both writers. Rating books is a tricky, subjective means of summing up someone’s work. If I were rating this book for myself alone, I would give it a four-and-a-half to five star rating because I enjoyed it, it was well written, and I learned something in reading it. As it is, the average reader might not be as intrigued with the subject, the foreign literary history, or Berest’s interesting presentation of this story. For me, Sagan, Paris 1954 roused my interest enough to pick up Bonjour Tristesse. The book is now sitting on my table awaiting my attention.

Nina Longfield is a writer living in Oregon’s fertile wine country. When she is not reading or writing in her spare time, Nina enjoys hiking in the hills surrounding her cabin.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Gallic Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.