“The Red Notebook” by Antoine Laurain is not a long novel – it is just under 200 pages. I stumbled upon it by chance and read it in pretty much a day or so. It is a sweet love story so if you are looking for a break from reading something more heavy and serious, this book would be a good fit.
The plot in “The Red Notebook” starts with a forty-something-year-old Laure being mugged and her bag being stolen. Once the thief steals the valuables, he dumps it on the curb and that’s where it gets picked up by a bookseller Laurant. He deems the bag to be too nice to be thrown and guesses correctly that it must have been stolen. When his attempt to bring the bag to the police station fails, he decided to set on a search for the owner by himself by taking the cues from the bag. Evidently, he also falls in love with the owner of that bag in the process of the search.
It is a cute love story and generally is quite enjoyable. One thing that is not fully clear is why the book was called “The Red Notebook”. While Laure’s diary that was in her bag is present in the story, it does not seem to be crucial to either understanding her as a character or to the whole story itself. Also, while the writing of the book was fine, it was lacking a bit of intricacy for me. It might have been because the book is translated from French so some of the language mastery is lost. I realized too late that the original was in French – otherwise, I would have read it without translation.
Anyway, the story is definitely nice and if you are looking for something lighthearted, I would recommend to give it a try.
“That was exactly what Tabucchi was suggesting in his title – that we can pass right by something very important: love, a job, moving to another city or another country. Or another life. “Pass by” and at the same time be “so close” that sometimes, while in that state of melancholy that is akin to hypnosis, we can, in spite of everything, manage to grab little fragments of what might have been. Like catching snatches of a far-off radio frequency. The message is obscure, yet by listening carefully you can still catch snippets of the soundtrack of the life that never was. You hear sentences that were never actually said, you hear footsteps echoing in places you’ve never been to, you can make out the surf on a beach whose sand you have never touched. You hear the laughter and loving words of a woman though nothing ever happened between you. Perhaps she would have liked that – probably in fact – but nothing ever happened. For some unknown reason, we never gave in to exquisite vertigo that you feel when you move those few centimeters towards the face of the other for the first kiss. We passed by, we passed so close that something of the experience remains.”
Maybe it is strange but I feel the vertigo of that might have been sometimes too often.
I wonder if it’s called “The Red Notebook” as a nod to one of my favorite short stories, “The Yellow Wallpaper.” I remember trying to rip it off in a high school English class, and lost originality points on “The Red Chair,” lol.