Gallic Books Limited
What a charming novel The Red Notebook is! Antoine Laurain has written a story about two strangers who would be perfect for each other, if only they could somehow connect. But he is a divorced bookseller. She is a widowed gilder. A meeting seems unlikely.
He finds her abandoned handbag, which contains objects and mementoes that reveal her personality but not her identity. A red notebook is filled with her thoughts and musings, and he gradually falls in love with the person who has written them. He uses his superior literary powers (being a bookseller and all) to discover her identity, doggedly pursuing a series of clues that are scattered throughout the text like breadcrumbs.
However, The Red Notebook is more than just a lovely story reminiscent of The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry and When Harry Met Sally. The Red Notebook is a love song dedicated to French literature, in particular to Patrick Modiano and his oeuvre. It is Modiano himself who provides the first clue to the handbag owner’s identity. There are references to at least 43 other authors, most of them French. Many names are recognizable to American readers.
Reading this novel made me want to read all of Modiano’s novels — sadly, out of 25 or so, only a few are available in English. The only way I see out of this deplorable situation is to improve six years of French well enough to read them!
~ Lysbeth Abrams