21 January, 2016

Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan

When Bonjour Tristesse was published in 1954, it became an overnight sensation. The author, 18 year old Françoise Sagan, was lauded and lambasted in equal measure by the French public.

While many were scandalised by the amorality of the novel, and its young female protagonist openly enjoying sex sans love and marriage, in other quarters Sagan was hailed as a genius and the next great French writer.

Bonjour Tristesse, a slim novel set on the sun-soaked French Riviera, tells the story of Cécile and her father, Raymond, who enjoy a life of frivolity and hedonism, accompanied by an ever-changing array of Raymond’s much younger girlfriends.

But when a friend of Cécile's late mother enters their lives (the sensible and beautiful Anne) and seems dangerously close to taming Raymond, Cécile schemes to break them up.

Bonjour Tristesse is an example of the French psychological novel, concerned not only with telling what is happening, but examining why it is happening, delving deep into character psyche.

The wealthy, beautiful disillusioned characters will appeal to fans of F. Scott Fitzgerald and J. D Salinger, while Cécile’s soapy machinations and love affair with the boy next door, Cyril, make this a perfect beach read.

Françoise Sagan’s life reads a little like one of her novels. Expelled from two separate schools when she was younger (once for a ‘lack of deep spirituality’ and once for hanging a bust of the French playwright Molière out of a window), Sagan was thrust into literary fame after the publication of Bonjour Tristesse. Over the course of her career, she published some twenty novels as well as plays, non-fiction,  essays and short stories.

Sagan’s life was marked by addiction to drugs and alcohol, and she died in 2004. She wrote her own obituary for the Dictionary of Authors, which showcases the wit and humour that appeared in all her work:

"Appeared in 1954 with a slender novel, Bonjour Tristesse, which created a scandal worldwide. Her death, after a life and a body of work that were equally pleasant and botched, was a scandal only for herself."

Title: Bonjour Tristesse; and, A certain smile
Author: Françoise Sagan

Reviewed by Hannah C, Mount Albert Library

Hannah C. enjoys fruit-infused waters and books with footnotes. 


  1. I love Francois Sagan! The "charming little monster". I recently finished Astragal - another book by a wild French femme - would recommend!

  2. Hi Ellla - thanks for reading, always a pleasure to here from another Francophile! Will have to check out Astragal, sounds like a real treat! Au revoir!


Kia ora! Please feel free to leave your comments or suggestions below.