The President's Hat by Antoine Laurain

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The President's Hat by Antoine Laurain

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Buy The President's Hat by Antoine Laurain at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Robin Leggett
Reviewed by Robin Leggett
Summary: Full of charm and humour, this short book looks at how a small change in attitude can have significant differences to lives. It's a delightful little read.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 208 Date: March 2013
Publisher: Gallic Books
ISBN: 978-1908313478

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The milliners' advertising used to say 'to get ahead, get a hat'. They would very much approve of this book. Daniel Mercier is a Mr Average - or perhaps a Monsieur Mediocre. He's a lowly accountant until one evening he finds himself dining next to French President, François Mitterrand, who leaves the restaurant without his hat. When Daniel decides to keep it, his life starts to change and he feels somehow more confident. In other strands of the story, Fanny Marquant is having an affair with an older man who clearly has no intention of leaving his wife while celebrated perfumer Pierre Aslan has lost his ability to detect smells and to create perfumes. Bernard Lavallière, meanwhile is struggling to live up to the right wing standards of his wife's friends and starts to read the more left wing papers. At some point, all will come into contact with the President's hat and it will have an impact on all of them.

Antioine Laurain's short novel, is a delight. It's as light and subtle as a soufflé and is both wryly amusing and entertaining. The first three of the story's threads in particular are excellently worked and when they come together they are both funny and thoughtful. The Lavallièrre thread worked less successfully for me but then that is perhaps because it rather stands alone from the other three.

Behind Laurain's humour though is a subtle look at what Mitterrand brought to France and the reaction of the wealthy to his socialist values. The hat stands for the good intentions that he brought and suggests that as much as anything what he sought was a change in attitudes. But while there is depth to the narrative, first and foremost it is superbly entertaining. It is hard to imagine a British author evoking such fortune from, say Margaret Thatcher's handbag.

For those who like to imagine Paris as full of swanky restaurants, arrogant men, style and illicit affairs, you will not be disappointed, yet it achieves this without appearing too cliché.

The main sadness about the book is that it is just so short. It's the type of book that you can easily read on a decent length train journey. Just make sure you check the luggage rack for left hats before you leave the carriage.

We would like to say merci beaucoup to the kind people at Gallic Books for sending us this delightful book.

While it is hard to imagine a British author writing so positively about an elected leader, the wonderful The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett is very much in a similar vein.

Buy The President's Hat by Antoine Laurain at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The President's Hat by Antoine Laurain at Amazon.co.uk


Buy The President's Hat by Antoine Laurain at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The President's Hat by Antoine Laurain at Amazon.com.

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