When I was 17, I worked as an usher in my local cinema/theatre, the Stephen Joseph Theatre, in Scarborough-still one of the best jobs I’ve ever had and filled with very fond memories. Whilst I was there the film Amelie was released and, being quite an art house sort of place, it was shown. I went with my mum and completely fell in love with it.
I love quirky little tales of joy, especially ones that make you want to eat fine food, drink fine wine, admire fine women and look at beautiful art work and, to my brutish xenophobic English eyes no one does fine better than the French.
This book, which came out in France a couple of years ago and is released in this country at the end of this month, encapsulates everything that is fine, and quirky, and fun, and was an absolute pleasure to read from start to finish.
The story of a hat, worn by the President of France François Mitterrand, and the seemingly magical qualities it has to give the wearer confidence and to somehow improve their life, brings 80s France, especially Paris, to life. A world away from my vision of the 80s, which is most Thatcher/Miners/Falklands/Patent Leather Shoes based (I was only there for half of it so can’t really talk), this is a world of quiet luxuries, beautiful perfumes, and great leaps of faith. They had a socialist for a President and, from the description of him in the book, he was pretty damn cool.
As this magical hat passes from owner to owner, and each story becomes wrapped up I was emerged in the simple but perfectly succulent prose. There are laugh out loud moments as well as quite chuckle at the back of your throat. If you’re a fan of Alexander McCall Smith, or anyone who writes happy books that make you feel good, you need to read this. It would also make a wonderful gift as it is a beautiful book, and I will be buying it for several people I know who love lovely things.
A joy to read.