Happy September!! You’ll be pleased to know my great disappearing act has come to an end. In all seriousness, the last of my summer holiday went in the blink of an eye and my return to work came all too suddenly. Therefore, I apologise for all the wonderful things I’ve missed. I’ll endeavour to catch up with them all.
Now I’ve got a pocket of time to myself (meaning I’m currently ignoring the Macbeth scheme of work I need to write) I wanted to share with you a lovely little book I read over the summer. This book made me smile in abundance. It was one of those reads that grabbed you by the heart and whisked you on a little adventure.
What’s it all about?
The novel centres around Laure and Laurent and how their lives are brought together. For the majority of the novel, the main voice we hear is Laurent’s. However, it is through his narrative we learn about Laure.
On her way home from work, Laure is mugged. Her attacker knocks her head with a heavy object which causes her to fall to the ground. The attacker runs away, taking her handbag with him. Many people around her try and help but Laure believes she is completely fine. She doesn’t realise that she has sustained quite an injury to the back of her head. Laure doesn’t wish to return home, despite feeling ok. Therefore, she checks herself into a nearby hotel and meets a friendly night clerk. She explains how she’s been mugged and needs a place for the night so in the morning she can go and report it to the police where she will then be able to pay for the room. The night clerk agrees to let her stay and gives her a key to a room. She settles down for the night.
The following morning, the women working on the front desk reads a note left by the night clerk telling them what happened with the mysterious woman. They patiently wait then decide they should go and check on her. When they enter they room, what they find shocks them. She’s lying unconscious and in a pool of blood. She is then taken to a hospital where it is revealed that she is in a coma.
Meanwhile, Laurent decides to leave his bookstore to go for a walk around the city. He’s pondering his life, feeling rather dissatisfied and contemplating whether or not he should leave his overpowering girlfriend, Dominique. He spots a woman’s handbag from afar and reflects how his ex wife, Claire, used to never part with her bags. He has his suspicions about this bag being stolen. After conducting a little investigation, he discovers no wallet, adding to his earlier suspicion. He takes the bag home and rescues it from the trash.
‘How many things do we feel obliged to do for the sake of it, or for appearances, or because we are trained to do them, but which weigh us down and don’t in fact achieve anything?’
Once at home, he pulls out all the contents of the retrieved bag and among them finds a necklace with hieroglyphics on it and a red notebook. There are plenty of odds and ends such as a lipstick, perfume bottle, a book signed by a lesser known author and some hair pins. His attention is mostly held by the red notebook and he realises it is a diary. Temptation gets the better of him and he starts to read it. This gives him the window to learning about this woman. He learns that she is kind, creative, witty and passionate. He feels deep down that she is someone he would want to get to know.
‘He drank some more wine, feeling he was about to commit a forbidden act. A transgression. For a man should never go through a woman’s handbag-even the most remote tribe would adhere to that ancestral rule.’
However, back at the hospital, Laure is dreaming in her coma. Her dreams take her back to being a child playing in a beautiful garden. Her memories intrude on this blissful dream and her former husband, Xavier, appears in the garden. This then pulls her fork her dream to the reality of his death. She recalls the government phone call, informing her of his death in the Iraq War as he was taking war photographs. She fights back the reality and the pain of this situation and reverts back to the garden, holding Xavier’s hand.
Laurent finishes reading Laure’s diary and realises how Dominique pales in comparison to this woman he has never met. Ironically, at this moment, Dominique shows up at his apartment. Laurent quickly hides all of Laure’s items in her bag and hides it. Yet, as soon as Dominique enters, she can smell another woman’s perfume. Laurent is adamant that no other woman has been there but she doesn’t believe him. When they attend a party that evening, Laurent’s mind drifts to how Laure would behave at a party. He decides that this is unfair on her and ends their relationship.
‘She was an enigma. It was like looking at someone through a fogged-up window. her face was like one encountered in a dream, whose features disolve as soon as you try to recall them.’
The following day Laurent’s friend Pascal tells him how foolish he has been in terminating his relationship. After all, Laure is still unknown to him really. Pascal had different morals to Laurent and he wishes his friend followed in his own footsteps of being more of a ladies man. As they part ways, Laurent is determined to find Laure and reunite her with her bag. The police are less than interested in the matter, claiming the paperwork is too lengthy.
Laurent decides to track down the author of the signed book which was in the bag. Upon finding him, he cannot remember who the owner of the book is but can describe what she looks like. Rather conveniently, he has another author in the store doing another book signing who can read hieroglyphics. He translates the necklace which reveals her full name. The overwhelming sense of relief is immense from Laurent. He knows her name which means he now has a better chance of finding her.
Unbelievably, he does find her, in a coma in one of the hospitals. Upon his arrival he sees another man there called William. He is a colleague of Laure’s and has been taking care of her pet cat. The doctor introduces him as Laure’s brother but Laurent and the doctor know that this isn’t true. It is assumed that he is Laure’s boyfriend and he fails to contradict him. Laurent feels bad about lying about his relationship but when he is asked by William to stay at her house to cat sit, he doesn’t look back.
Laure is still deep in her dream but more and more of the real world invaded them. She hears nurses discussing a television show and is aware that she is in hospital. But, she is not willing to wake up just yet.
Laurent stays at Laure’s house for several days. He spends time looking through her personal items, like her photo albums, books and collections. It helps to add and further create an image of her in his head. He starts to feel an increasing amount of guilt because of his behaviour.
‘There, it was over. How was it so easy to disappear from someone else’s life? Perhaps it was with the same ease that you enter it. A chance meeting, a few words exchanged, and a relationship begins. A chance falling out, a few words exchanged and that same relationship is over.’
Later in the day he meets with his daughter, Chloe. She asks him to pretend to be her boyfriend when her friends appear. Initially, this upsets him but he plays along to keep his daughter happy. He is also aware that the boys are less likely to come near her if they think she’s got an older boyfriend. He confides in Chloe about what he has been doing with the handbag and the notebook. Chloe finds it all very romantic despite her father sharing his guilt with her.
‘Chloe sighted, then continued, ‘She’s very attached to the past – the mirror is ancient, a famili heirloom; perhaps it was her grandmother’s. And she uses an unusual perfume – no one wears Habanita any more – she writes weird things in her notebook, she has a book signed by an author you admire…’ Then she concluded with an ironic smile, ‘She’s the woman for you.’
As Laure finally wakes up from her coma, William is by her side but Laurent is not. Earlier in the day, he dropped the keys to Laure’s house off at William’s office. She is released from hospital and returns to her home. She stumbles upon a note from Laurent apologising for what he has done. Amazingly, she is not upset, but rather, more moved by his efforts to get her belongings back to her. Thus, she begins her own mission to find him.
Nevertheless, Laurent is morose. Chloe knows why this is and manages to convince her mother and stepfather that one of their picture frames need touching up. She does this because she has learnt from Laurent that Laure was a framer in the town. She goes to several framing stores until she finds the one where Laure works. She tells her exactly where she can find Laurent.
Immediately, Laure goes to the bookstore. She approaches the counter and asks him about a book that features a woman whose handbag had been taken and a man who runs all around town to find her. It dawns on Laurent that it is Laure and takes her into his arms. They live blissfully ever after.
‘It’s the story of a bookseller who finds a handbag in the street one day, takes it home with him, empties out its contents and decides to look for the woman who owns it. He succeeds but when he finds her, he runs off like an idiot.’
This book gave me such a warm fuzzy feeling inside. Whilst the attack was absolutely awful, I was desperate for the two to meet. Sometimes I just really appreciate a happy ending. This short little book was such a joy and gave me the happy ending I so desperately wanted. Chloe gave me the biggest surprise character wise as she initially appeared to be a bit of a diva. Yet, she’s the one that brings the two together. This is a perfect little book for a quick read on a drizzly afternoon.
Enjoy the rest of the week lovely people!
Big love xx