Book review: French Rhapsody – I love France 203

French Rhapsody

 

french-rhapsody

Author:
Antoine Laurain
Translators:
Emily Boyce & Jane Aitken
Publisher:
Gallic Books

US Release date: Oct 11, 2016
Rhapsodie française
was first released in French in January 2016
Pages: 240
ISBN: 978-1910477304
also available as ebook
Genre:  literary fiction

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MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS BOOK

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When I participated in BEA 16 in Chicago a few months ago, there was  a lot of hype around Antoine Laurain, a French author I had not yet read! So before reading the book I got there, I decided to read and review one published earlier, The President’s Hat. I really enjoyed it and was eager then to discover his  latest, French Rhapsody. Like some other readers though, I’m a bit disappointed. There are however some good things in this short novel.

One day, Alain, 52, is informed by the P.O. that they found a letter addressed to him behind old shelves, stuck there for 30 years! The letter was sent by the famous record label Polydor, informing him that they were interested in his group, The Holograms.
But as they had never received any reply, The Holograms had dispersed, each of its members following his or her way in life.
Nostalgic and a bit depressed, Alain decides to try to reconnect with the others and see if by any chance one of them would have kept a copy of the track they sent to Polydor.

As in The President’s Hat, the basic plot is fairly simple, with the main character looking for a lost item, here the music track submitted to Polydor. The story starts rather slowly, but then there are a few interesting and unexpected twists along the road.

The richness of the book is more I think in the background, with tons of references to music, as well as comparison of changes between the 1980s and the 2010s. It is also about politics and modern art. The descriptions and reflections are spot on, often hilarious and satirical, like in this passage:

french-rhapsody-p-30

Alain shares how the group started and follows how each member has evolved since they dispersed. The women in the story get to add their own perspective in a first person narrative, with a different font used for their input.

The style is quirky, with fairly large developments on a character who decided to found his own right wing movement. The author does not mince his words. It could be totally hilarious, but with a rise in right wing movements and ideas in Europe and elsewhere, it sometimes felt too close to home. But it’s just me, I don’t do too well with satire.

At a deeper level, and exemplified at the end, I think the book may also invite to reflect on the end of an era and the beginning of a new order.

EN DEUX MOTS :

Le dernier roman de Laurain traduit en anglais présente une image amusante, parfois hilarante même, du paysage français des années 80 à nos jours. Mais la trame de l’histoire ne m’a pas autant retenue que dans Le Chapeau de Mitterrand. Tout commence même assez lentement. La musique, la politique et l’art contemporain y sont bien égratignés au passage.

VERDICT: Quirky and nostalgic, hilarious and satirical. A portrait of France as you may not know it!

WHAT IS IT ABOUT

Middle-aged doctor Alain Massoulier has received a life-changing letter—thirty-three years too late.
Lost in the Paris postal system for decades, the letter from Polydor, dated 1983, offers a recording contract to The Holograms, in which Alain played lead guitar.
Back then The Holograms had believed in their cutting-edge sound. However, the music industry remained indifferent, and eventually the band split up, each going their own way.
Alain is overcome by nostalgia, and is tempted to track down the members of the group. But in a world where everything and everyone has changed . . . where will his quest take him?
Antoine Laurain’s new novel combines his trademark charm with a satirical take on modern France.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Antoine-Laurain

Antoine Laurain
was born in Paris and is a journalist,
antiques collector
and the author of five novels.
The President’s Hat,
a charming fable set in the Mitterrand years,
was awarded the Prix Landerneau Découvertes
and the Prix Relay in 2012 and is published in English by Gallic.
It was a Waterstones Book Club book
and ABA Indies Introduce pick in 2013.
Antoine was chosen to represent France at European Literature Night 2014. He is also the author of The Red Notebook (2015) and The President’s Hat (2013).
Sign up for Antoine Laurain’s newsletter and keep up to date with his upcoming novels, book signings and events near you.
Visit his website, watch this interview (in English), follow him on Instagram

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In full compliance with FTC Guidelines,
I received this book free of charge from Gallic Books.
I was in no way compensated for this post as a reviewer, and the thoughts are my own.

This book counted for these Reading Challenges

French Bingo 2016 logoBooks in Translation 2016
New-Release-Challenge2016

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