The President,s hat by Antoine Laurain


The president’s hat by Antoine Laurain

French literature

Original title – Le chapeau de Mitterrand

Translator Gallic books (the four main characters stories were translated by three translators )

Source – review copy

Antoine Laurain is a Parisian born writer ,he has won a number of prizes and has written four novels .The president’s hat is his first book to be translated into English .

I am dining next to the president of the republic ,Daniel kept repeating to himself ,trying to convince himself that , irrational as it seem ,it was really happening to him .He barely noticed the taste of his first oyster ,so preoccupied was he by his new neighbours .

Daniel is eating when Mitterrand comes into the Brassiere he is in

Well this is a strange one I had picked this up a week earlier in the bookshop when it came out attracted by the cover and also the story as it was set during the eighties .So when I got chance to review it from Gallic books I jumped at the chance .The book follows a hat ,the hat happens to belong too President Mitterrand .The hat goes on an adventure after being left behind by the president in a Parisian restaurant and being picked up by Daniel Mercier ,this dull officer worker is in two minds to take the hat and when he does the hat seems to have some magic effect on him giving him a new air of confidence ,he subsequently loses the hat it then passes through Fanny ,Pierre and Bernhard all are touched or change when the hat comes into their lives .Meanwhile Daniel is trying to regain the hat and regain its powers as he sees it .What is Mitterrand doing about his lost hat ? why didn’t he go back  for it .

The black felt brim acted like a visor ,compressing the space around her and marking out a distinct horizon .In Batigonelles ,a man did a double take as he passed her .What kind of image was she projecting ,walking along in the moonlight in her denim mini-skirt ,high heels ,silver jacket and black hat ?

Fanny finds the hat after Daniel she is a 80’s hip girl in her own words

This book isn’t high French lit ,but it is fun lighter reader  .For me its from that part of the French psyche that produces films like Amelie ,which this book really remind me of that fuzzy warmness I got form that film ,That light-hearted Gallic humour  of misadventures  ,Like the box that Amelie finds the hat is a framing devices and a talisman to all the come in contact with and in some way changes everyone’s life  .In the back of the book is an interview with Antoine Laurain where he said he came up with the idea after losing his own hat and imagining after he had returned to the restaurant and their was no sighting that it had fallen into the hands of a beautiful women .Her choose the 1980’s as he want to go back to a simple period of French life ,Nick Lezard in his Guardian review talks of a new sub genre of  ” pre mobile phone literature” ,I agree in part but part of me thinks that anyone of a certain age in both UK and France looks back at the 80’s as a golden age in a way the last time before the world started to speed up due to so much information and internet . When people still read papers ,houses still had  phones or minitel in Frances case .Even our news seemed different we know who Mitterrand was we saw him on our tv on the news regularly as the world has sped up the last twenty years or viewing of the news has changed so we know less about our French neighbours current leader than we did in the 80’s which is a shame .This book is a fast read I finished it in a little over a night and it was a book that when I put it finally down I was smiling and a little upset that it had finished as I loved the world I had been in between the covers .

Have you read the book ?

What can we read into the food served in the Dinner blog tour


I was asked to join the blog tour,very happy as it was one of my favourite reads last year and a book I feel people should get to know bettr ,anyway I thought a few words on some of the food served during the meal would be fun .I did review The dinner last year and Alan from words of mercury kicked of the tour yesterday any way lets look at the food .


the dinner

The dinner menu


Crayfish with baby onions dressed in a tarragon vinaigrette

Main course

Fillet of Guinea fowl

wrapped in ultra thin german bacon

on a bed of lettuce


A parfait of home made chocolate and shaved almonds

and grated walnuts

Topped with our own Blackberries fresh from the garden


crayfish in vinaigrette from cusine NZ site


Well I look at the crayfish and thought two things about why it might be chosen .One that they are fish that live of clean the water around them and maybe that is a fore warning of what is about to happen in the meal .The other point is there not Lobster smaller and is the maybe a point is this about a small fish in a big world ,one of the brother is a politician and is he maybe a small fish not the big one he thinks he is .


Main course

The main course again has Guinea fowl, which like the crayfish is a smaller version of fowl that one would usually eat and why is the bacon German ? at this point the action round the table is starting to get heat up as the two brothers discuss what their they are there for I do wonder what Dave lamb would say as he saw the four people round the table discussing there sons actions .

choc parfait from taste the wild blog


Parfait is a hard dish to make as it takes time and care to master .Strange rather like the decisions the two brothers and the wives are making round the table if one step goes wrong the outcome will be completely wrong .Blackberries from the garden maybe shows that the politician brother needs to get back to the people and maybe have something everyone would eat like Blackberries we’ve picked up ourselves .

Well sure I’m wrong but thought a quick look at the foods the brothers and wives ate during the dinner .

Do you ever wonder about the food mentioned in books you read ?

Fellow blog tour folk


Share your thoughts online: @atlanticbooks #thedinner.

26th April Stu Allen:

winston's dad's blog

29th April Tina Hartas:

30th April – Marion McGilvary:

Pedantic Press

1st May David Hebblethwaite:

2nd May Megan Wood:

3rd May Marcia Jarnell:


25th April Alan Bowden:


tops on the blog tour .


To the Islands by Randolph stow

to the islands

To the Islands by Randolph Stow

Australian fiction

Source – personnel copy

aussie lit month

Randolph Stow is one of those writers I feel that time is forgetting I only heard about him a few years ago when this book was considered one of the best Australian novels on the old ABC book show .He won the Miles franklin the year after Patrick white did with Voss in 1958 the second winner of the prize with this book .I looked up and he has been described by one person as the Australian Camus .Anyway he lived in the uk from the mid seventies and died a couple of years ago .This book was revised in 1991 but my copy is the old Australian Penguin version from 1962 .

I am an old man ,an old man .J’ai plus de souvenirs que si j ‘ avais mille ans ,and this cursed .Baudelaire whining in his head like a mosquito ,preaching despair .How does a man grow old who had made no investment in the future ,without wife or child ,without refuge for his heart beyond the work that becomes too much for him ?

Very good bit of existentialist angst here I felt

I read both Kim and Lisa’s review of this book and Knew it was one I would love .SO what is it about well the action is set in worth west western Australia in a Mission that is run by the church (you just know how this is going to go ,don’t you  ) ,this is for the Aboriginals to use (be converted they meant  no matter what the cost  ) anyway the mission is run by Stephen Heriot ,this guy fits you typical missionary view he sees the Aboriginals as people to covert but years in the desolate place has changed him into a twisted man anyway the is a man he has had run in with over the years Rex an aboriginal he has had run in with in the past and he considers evil anyway ,he ends up killing him and Heriot goes on the run  but what happens next ?.

Without bending ,without touching him :”dead” ,said Heriot ,feeling in himself the thickening of blood ,the stiffening and relaxing of fingers . Rex –

The moment the book turns .

Well this book has so many themes it hard to cover them all , Christianity and Aboriginals this isn’t just a Australian thing it can be seen in a wider context of africa and Asia .Heriot a man in crisis is a classic figure of existential fiction a man questioning – What he did ,who he is and why he is ? easy to see why he had been called the Australian Camus .Heriot could easily be a  character from say Camus or Beckett  .then we have ,Culture clash the white folk as they are often called here by the aboriginal as there views on life differ greatly thus cause a build up of tension especially in Heriot  .For me one of the  things I loved was the Language this is something I really loved, Stow’s voice especially the dialogue which to me as an English reader sound very authentic like the “old days  ” Aussie we used to hear in my youth thirty years ago  ,to coin a term ,he used some terms which now seem very out-of-place but were in common usage at the times ,these I believe have been to some extent removed in the revised edition which is shame lisa did not she would like to she what was cut and I will second this myself ,I feel books may date to me this hasn’t te themes at its core are still the same today maybe not in Australia but elsewhere ,the terms are of the time and added for me as a reader .As for him being like Patrick White he is a bit but when he wrote this at just 22 he hadn’t read White’s Voss .

Have you read this ?

A personnel odyssey Anthony Burgess

Well earlier this year I was lucky to be sent these from Vintage books it is six Anthonh Burgess novels that have been reissued by them ,now if you have read this blog over the years I have mentioned him from time to time he is one of my five all time favourite writers .I haven’t reviewed him on blog yet but when these came it finalised a plan I had in the back of my head for a couple of years and that was to read a number of his books in Late November /early December 2013 ,which marks 20th anniversary of Anthony Burgess death for me it was a great loss of one of the most unique and individual writers the English language has eve produced so with my own collection of books here

I have 17 novels of the 34 novels listed on Wikipedia as by him if I add in 4 I have wish listed on Amazon for my new kindle that have been published Serpents tail that means 21 novels plus the autobiography little Wilson and big god to read I have made a start reading eve of st Venus already .Now as I said this is a personnel odyssey for me but all are welcome to join in because to me he has always been much more than the one book Clockwork Orange that most people know him for .so from November watch out as from them til e d of 2013 I intend to review all these books not moving from translation but marking an important figure to me as a reader in my reading life .he marked a real change in my reading Habits when I read him in my late teens and early twenties and I feel now is the time to mark that point in my life and honour this great writer before everyone forgets him .For he wrote dystopic fiction, sci fi fiction ,comedy ,historic fiction and philosophical novels but fat from been the writer that moved genres and never succeed he did in nearly every field he tried .Bot bad for a guy that said he was a musician first and writer second

What is your favourite book by Anthony Burgess ?

Polish lit month update

Hi all I’ve not forgotten this I ve decide to move it back to October .I been busy working and reading the iffp books which include Pawel Huelle’s cold sea stories time has run away from me and I really want this to run smoothly so I ll be contacting translators and starting to post books they like and recommend in next few weeks now the Iffp is nearly over for another year .
What polish fiction do you think you will choose in October ?


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