Hats off to this charming French fable

the president's hatantoine laurain1


Antoine Laurain’s superbly translated novel is a charming fable to behold. An uplifting example of genuine storytelling that skips along at a lighthearted but fast pace from beginning to end.
The story is set in the heart of the 80s where we find accountant Daniel Mercer dining alone in a classy Parisian brasserie. Astonishingly, he is soon joined at the next table by the formidable President Francois Mitterrand. Daniel enjoys an unbelievable evening of eavesdropping and beams in the presence of France’s leader.

On leaving the restaurant, Mitterrand leaves his black felt hat behind. After only a moment’s consideration, Daniel decides to keep the hat as a souvenir of an extraordinary night. The hat changes hands (and heads) when it is lost, found, left again and taken by the wrong person. Each of its temporary owners are stunned to find their lives changing remarkably as if the hat has taken on special powers of magic and destiny.

Tellingly, this book was released in France on the eve of the presidential elections which Francois Hollande won to become the second Socialist President of the Republic. Laurain says he always found Mitterrand to be “impressive,” an opinion which certainly comes across in his writing which sets the late President as an appealing figurehead.

The idea for The President’s Hat came to the author after losing his own hat. One of the questions posed for reading groups at the back of this book – would you have taken the hat and why? To which I’d reply ABSOLUTELY! As a fan of an anecdote to wow the people down the pub on a Saturday night, you can’t beat having a prop as proof of your experience!

The book ends on an unexpected twist, slightly silly but fabulous stuff. I will seek out more of his work.

SOUTHSEA BOOKWORM RATING: 8.5/10antoine laurain

Notes on the author – Antoine Laurain

  • Born in Paris
  • Prize winning author of four novels
  • Antoine is also a film maker and an antiques collector

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