The Red Notebook
Translators: Emily Boyce and Jane Aitken
"The gap between his ideal and his reality was too great. The weight turned into an anguish which was succeeded by the intolerable idea that he was wasting his life - or even that he had already wasted it."
This is a reflection of the main character, Laurent Letellier who is a middle-aged male owner of a book store in Paris in a rare literary gem, The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain and translated by Jane Aitken and Emily Boyce. By that one sentence, the mood is set for a masterful tale with an eloquent gift of word choices perfectly reflecting the characters.
Paris is a well-respected city for fashion. Finding an obviously pricey purse abandoned, Laurent Letellier looks for who is the owner. However, no one is around who would own the purse. So what does he do?
As a middle-aged male and responsible business owner of a bookstore, Laurent wants to do the right thing. What if the purse had belonged to his daughter? What would he expect and want a stranger to do in these circumstances? Should he look inside the purse? As a responsible adult and good citizen, he visits the local police station with the purse. Unfortunately they offer no assistance in returning the purse to the owner.
This purse is expensive and unusual, likely expensive. While missing the wallet and cell phone, there are numerous other clues to the identity of the owner. The most unusual inhabitant of this purse is a red notebook and autographed copy of a book. Could the author know who owns the purse? Most likely, no.
Why hasn't the owner contacted the police about the purse? With the only clue being a laundry tag, Laurent decides to continue this investigation. Why wouldn't she pick up her laundry?
With only the purse and its contents, Laurent begins his quest to find the owner. How do you balance this personal goal without it becoming an obsession? What is wrong with doing the right thing?
The Red Notebook is a gem. The writing is lush with the reader being inside Laurent's mind, understanding his daily life while weighing the conflicts of this purse. The characters are well-developed, the plot is simple but intriguing with words swirling and interweaving into a masterful short tale.
This small book is a masterpiece for both the author Antoine Laurain and the translators Emily Boyce and Jane Aitken who perfectly matched the differences of the languages and best selecting the words and phrases to reflect the author's masterful tale.