Heather Lighton is a pretty busy lady, among her many skills she’s a top shelf photographer, jewellery maker, and not to be gross—but a rad buddy too. When we asked her to write something about a special book for us she got all shy and insisted she wasn’t any good at this stuff. But in true Heather style, she nailed it.
If you want some summer reading, then a story set in a grandiose white villa, on the French Riviera is an amiable place to start. Bonjour Tristesse (Hello Sadness) was written by Francois Sagan when she was seventeen and first published in 1954.
Cecile, the protagonist, lives a life of adolescent decadence with her philandering, handsome father. Along with his many mistresses they live a life of parties and pleasure with no thoughts of the future. Cecile explains it, “An unthinking, easy egoism had been natural to me”. Their summer by the sea is a series of sleep-ins, swims, smokes and lovers. Each day is awash with shimmering seas, every night a party, and each morning’s hangover is spent on the sand.
However, their life of debauchery is fractured with the arrival of Anne. An old friend of Cecile’s mother; Anne is a stunning intellectual, with a disdain for the unintelligent. She captures her fathers heart, forces Cecile to study on her holiday and bans her from seeing her dreamy seaside lover.
As Cecile struggles to find an intellect pleasing to Anne she questions her very being and cannot help but feel that spending time with her lover is really more her thing, “I looked at his red lips, so near mine. I did not feel intellectual any longer.”
Cecile becomes more moody and penchant over her situation and spends more time in her room listening to records and plotting Annes demise: “I chose slow rhythms, without a melody. I smoked a good deal and felt decadent, which gave me pleasure.” Although I never spent any time at the French Riviera with a phonograph in my adolescence, her very French teenage angst does resonate with my own. Although listening to Nirvana in my bedroom in Hobart does not seem as chic.
It is everything about this book, the coming of age, the wild thoughts and unfinished ideas, which make you ache in sympathy and retrospection of what is was like to be a 17-year-old girl.
Relive your teenage years with a hotter boyfriend by the Mediterranean Sea with Bonjour Tristesse.