The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain – an irresistible gem of a book

April 23, 2021

This article was written for Annabel & Grace, which is now part of Rest Less.


I was so happy to see that this favourite book of mine, The Red Notebook, had been chosen by HRH The Duchess of Cornwall as one of her featured books for this month. Even though I read this book some time ago, probably when it was published in 2015, I can remember it so well. It is a slim novel, and so I settled down one evening to read it once again. I think you can do that with an excellent book. Perhaps you can see something else in the prose. Maybe you missed something when you read it for the first time. Anyway, it gave me just as much pleasure the second time.

The Red Notebook was originally written in French by the author Antoine Laurain. However, it was then translated by Emily Boyce and Jane Aitken.

It is a simple story: Bookseller Laurent Letellier comes across an abandoned handbag on a Parisian street and feels impelled to return it to its owner. The bag contains no money, phone or contact information. But a small red notebook with handwritten thoughts and jottings reveals a person that Laurent would very much like to meet. Without even a name to go on and only a few of her possessions to help him, how is he to find one woman in a city of millions?

This is a beautiful story. Suppose I tell you that this book is based around the contents of a handbag. The bag is discarded by a thief and found by a bookshop owner. From this, you would wonder how it could fill a book, let alone keep readers captivated. But it does and in spades. It is the sort of book that you want to curl up on the sofa on a grey afternoon. The story has a nice Gaelic feel, it transports you to the Parisian way of life, and you can get lost in the streets of Paris.

The Red Notebook is filled with lyrical writing and insightful observations. It is beautiful and elegant with such likeable characters. Over the past year, I have enjoyed French TV series like Call my Agent, Marseille, and Spiral. I have found a common theme with these French writers. Many of the characters are flawed but very likeable and, consequently, totally real.

What appealed to me most in this book was the way that the author has created excitement around simple things and moments. We have all had to learn this skill over the past year and so can appreciate it in this story.

This book is a love story with mystery, charm and moments of humour. It is enchanting and a book that I would highly recommend. Also, try other books by this author as they are equally as good. My favourite is The President’s Hat.

I would also recommend following on Instagram, The Reading Room, which is HRH The Duchess of Cornwall’s monthly choices.

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