Bonjour Tristesse: A Novel
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Bonjour Tristesse: A Novel

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by Francoise Sagan

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Endearing, self-absorbed, seventeen-year-old Cécile is the very essence of untroubled amorality. Freed from the stifling constraints of boarding school, she joins her father—a handsome, still-young widower with a wandering eye—for a carefree, two-month summer vacation in a beautiful villa outside of Paris with his latest mistress, Elsa. Cécile

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Endearing, self-absorbed, seventeen-year-old Cécile is the very essence of untroubled amorality. Freed from the stifling constraints of boarding school, she joins her father—a handsome, still-young widower with a wandering eye—for a carefree, two-month summer vacation in a beautiful villa outside of Paris with his latest mistress, Elsa. Cécile cherishes the free-spirited moments she and her father share, while plotting her own sexual adventures with a "tall and almost beautiful" law student. But the arrival of her late mother's best friend, Anne, intrudes upon a young girl's pleasures. And when a relationship begins to develop between the adults, Cécile and her lover set in motion a plan to keep them apart...with tragic, unexpected consequences.

The internationally beloved story of a precocious teenager's attempts to understand and control the world around her, Françoise Sagan's Bonjour Tristesse is a beautifully composed, wonderfully ambiguous celebration of sexual liberation, at once sympathetic and powerfully unsparing.

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HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
P.S. Series
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Product dimensions:
4.90(w) x 6.90(h) x 0.50(d)

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Chapter One

A strange melancholy pervades me to which I hesitate to give the grave and beautiful name of sorrow. The idea of sorrow has always appealed to me, but now I am almost ashamed of its complete egoism. I have known boredom, regret, and occasionally remorse, but never sorrow. Today it envelops me like a silken web, enervating and soft, and sets me apart from everybody else.

That summer, I was seventeen and perfectly happy. At that time "everybody else" was my father and his mistress, Elsa. I must explain this situation at once, or it might give a false impression. My father was forty, and had been a widower for fifteen years. He was young for his age, full of vitality and liveliness. When I left my convent school two years before and came to Paris to live with him, I soon realized that he was living with a woman. But I was slower in accepting the fact that his fancy changed every six months! But gradually his charm, my new easy life, and my own disposition, led me to fall in readily with his ways. He was a frivolous man, clever at business, always curious, quickly bored, and very attractive to women. It was easy for me to love him, for he was kind, generous, gay and fond of me. I cannot imagine a better or a more amusing companion. At the beginning of the summer I am concerned with now, he even asked me whether I would object to having Elsa along on our summer vacation. She was his mistress of the moment, a tall, red-headed girl, sensual and worldly, kindly, rather simple-minded, and unpretentious. One might have come across her any day in the studios and bars of the Champs-Elysées. I readilyconsented, for I knew his need of a woman, and I knew, too, that Elsa would not get in our way. Besides, my father and I were so delighted at the prospect of going away that I was in no mood to object to anything. He had rented a large white villa on the Mediterranean, for which we bad been longing since the spring. It was remote and beautiful, standing on a headland jutting over the sea, hidden from the road by pine woods. A goat path led down to a small, sunny cove where the sea lapped against rust-colored rocks.

The first days were dazzling. We spent hours on the beach giving ourselves up to the hot sun, gradually assuming a healthy golden tan — except for Elsa, whose skin reddened and peeled, causing her intense agony. My father performed all sorts of complicated exercises to reduce a rounding stomach unsuitable for a Don Juan. From dawn onward I was in the water. It was cool and transparent, and I plunged wildly about in my efforts to wash away the shadows and dust of Paris. I lay stretched out on the sand, took up a handful and let it run through my fingers in soft, yellow streams. I told myself that it ran out like time. It was an idle thought, and it was pleasant to have idle thoughts, for it was summer.

On the sixth day I saw Cyril for the first time. He was hugging the coast in a small sailboat and capsized in front of our cove. I had a wonderful time helping him to rescue his things, during which he told me his name, that he was studying law, and was spending his vacation with his mother in a neighboring villa. He had a typically Latin face — very dark and very frank. There was something responsible and protective about him which I liked at once. Usually I avoided college students, whom I considered brutal, wrapped up in themselves, particularly in their youth, in which they found material for drama, or an excuse for their own boredom. I did not care for young people; I much preferred my father's friends, men of forty, who spoke to me courteously and tenderly — treated me with the gentleness of a father — or a lover. But Cyril was different. He was tall and almost beautiful, with the kind of good looks that immediately inspires one with confidence. Although I did not share my father's intense aversion to ugliness — which often led us to associate with stupid people — I did feel vaguely uncomfortable in the presence of anyone completely devoid of physical charm. Their resignation to the fact that they were unattractive seemed to me somehow indecent. For what are we looking for if not to please? I do not know if the desire to attract others comes from a superabundance of vitality, possessiveness, or the hidden, unspoken need to be reassured.

When Cyril left he offered to teach me to sail. I went up to dinner absorbed in my thoughts of him, and hardly spoke during the meal or noticed my father's nervousness. After dinner we stretched out in chairs on the terrace as usual. The sky was studded with stars. I gazed upward, vaguely hoping to see a sudden, exciting flash across the heavens, but it was early in July and too soon for shooting stars. On the terrace the crickets were chirping. There must have been thousands of them, drunk with heat and moonlight, pouring out their song all night long. I had been told they made the sound by rubbing their legs together, but I preferred to believe that it came from the throat, guttural, instinctive like the howls of cats in heat.

We were very comfortable. A few tiny grains of sand between my skin and my shirt kept me from dropping off to sleep. Suddenly my father coughed apologetically and sat up.

"Someone is coming to stay with us," he announced.

I shut my eyes in disappointment. We had been too happy; it just couldn't last!

"Hurry up and tell us who it is!" cried Elsa, always avid for gossip.


Bonjour Tristesse. Copyright © by Francoise Sagan. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Meet the Author

Françoise Sagan (1935-2004) was only eighteen when her first novel, Bonjour Tristesse, was published. Her other novels include Incidental Music, A Certain Smile, and The Painted Lady.

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Bonjour Tristesse 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
ItsSerene More than 1 year ago
could not put this book down, i wanted to know what happened next :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Cunning Cecile doesn't want a stepmother interfering in the relaxed, lovely life she shares with her widowed father. Enough said: Read this fascinating story told in crisp prose.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book has simple beauty. well constructed characters-you get a sense that you can understand everyones point of view-but you don't know who to side with....and that's where the excitement lies. the translation could have been better adapted...but nonetheless the book's many underlying messages surface gracefully. its full of little aphorisms. Cecile's character is a very authentic portrayal of the naivity of youth and the consequences that such ignorance an bring. ----its a good summer read------
Guest More than 1 year ago
After Forced to read this book as a study material, i actually found myself wanting to read more as the story got more intense. It is hard to believe the different ways that the mind works and this book showed me the different extents to different personalities and different people. Start Reading