Cecile and her widowed father take a villa on the French south coast for the summer. Elsa, the latest in a line of her father's girlfriends, joins them. Cecile meets Cyril.
Then Anne, a friend of Cecile's dead mother turns up. In very short order, Anne ousts Elsa and pwersuades Cecile's father to promise to marry her; she takes over as Cecile's step-mother and forbids her to see Cyril.
So Cecile concocts a plan: Elsa and Cyril will pretend to be lovers and arrange it so that Cecile's father and Anne will keep happening upon them; Cecile's father, not known for his fidelity, will bed Elsa and Anne will depart. Everything will be back to the previous free and easy ways.
What could go wrong?
In the course of this very short novel, Cecile grows up in several ways and realises that free love can have a very painful price.
A shocking book in the 1950s, more for its depiction of amoral sex than for the explicitness of the sex scenes which would today be regarded as very coy. But this book has simplicity and poetic naturalness that combine with the classic plot to produce an almost mythic tale. Indeed, under the surface of lax morals and promiscuity, the core message is surprisingly moral and old-fashioned: you need to remember that the people around have fears and weaknesses and wants just like you and that they can hurt just as much as you can.
November 2015; 100 pages
Sagan's next book, a haunting tale of a love affair with a married man, is A Certain Smile.
- Having reviewed over 1100 books on this blog, I have now written one myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. It is available on Kindle through Amazon. Read it and find out whether this critic can write. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57