Continuing on with novels by Françoise Sagan…
I give you her second novel, published in 1955, entitled Un Certain Sourire (A Certain Smile in English).
I think this is my favorite novel by Sagan thus far because of its simpleness and directness with love and lust and how the two seem to merge together when one is infatuated with someone who is unattainable.
The plots centers around Dominique, a bored twenty year old law student at the Sorbonne who has a short-lived but life-changing affair with her boyfriend’s married uncle.
Dominique has a blooming romance with the young Bertrand, however she finds herself bored with her relationship, her social life, and basically everything Paris has to offer. All of this changes when Bertrand introduces Dominique to his uncle, Luc. The two are immediately attracted to each other, but Dominique holds off for fear of hurting Bertrand and Luc’s wife, Françoise. Passion turns out to be stronger than reason and the two finally consummate their relationship in Cannes. They spend two glorious weeks together in a hotel and the two promise not to get bored of each other or fall in love.
However, Dominique falls heads over heels for Luc. The feeling is not mutual.
What happens after the affair is Dominique’s downward spiral into depression. She spends hours in bed thinking nonstop about Luc, only to realize that he does not love her back. Dominique loses all sense of reality, until she finally realizes that Luc’s lack of love for her is not the end of the world. She moves on and as Dominique says so eloquently at the end of the book: ” I was a woman who had loved a man. It was a simple story.”
And that is the end of the novel…it is a very simple story. Passion turns into love and love turns into heartbreak and then heartbreak leads to realization and moving on.
Sagan follows the same pattern that she used Bonjour Tristesse, the protagonist has the same outlook on life – she’s wealthy, educated, jaded, and of course, fond of the drink. (But then again, all of Sagan’s female characters love to drink) The novel is also written from Dominique’s perspective, much like Cécile, in fact, the two could very well be the same character.
However, where Sagan fell a bit flat and cliche in her first novel, she more than makes up for it in this novel. It reads a lot smoother and more about Dominique’s passion rather than plot, which I personally loved.
So, if you want a quick, summer read, I suggest A Certain Smile. You won’t be disappointed.
Also, on a side note, Sagan wrote this novel in a two month period – pretty impressive, right? Enjoy!
The University of Chicago Press, where I work as promotions director, just published a new edition of A Certain Smile (a book I absolutely love). It should be showing up in stores any day now.