“Hello Sadness” Was a French Woman’s Answer to “The Catcher in the Rye”
Imagine if The Catcher in the Rye had been written in the perspective of a 17-year-old French girl with the sensibilities of Daisy Buchanon and the callous matchmaking of Jane Austen’s Emma, all rolled up into one short but striking novel. That’s exactly what you’ll get with Bonjour Tristesse.
Written by Françoise Sagan when she was only 18 herself, Bonjour Tristesse was a sensation when it was released in 1954 for its tale of lurid affairs and sexual conquests (though that could be explained away by its unapologetically French attitude). The story revolves around teenage Cécile and her father, Raymond, who would have given the Kardashians a run for their considerable money in the hedonism game. Cécile isn’t about to have her summer ruined by her father marrying the sensible and educated Ann, so she sets in motion the most self-centered and most destructive plan possible to prevent the marriage.
It’s a melodramatic teenager story. However, this is far from YA. It’s too carefully plotted, too painfully insightful about the complex simplicities of life, and too self-aware of its own youthful ennui.
In short, Cécile would have ran circles around Holden Caulfield.