Book review: Vintage 1954

Vintage 1954

Vintage 1954
by  Antoine Laurain
Translated from the French by
Jane Aitken/Emily Boyce
Gallic Books
Millésime 1954
was published in 2018
Fiction/ Time Travel
208 pages


Buy the book

I usually associate Antoine Laurain with quirkiness. But he can do so much more. His latest novel Vintage 1954 is here to prove it. His best so far, keep reading to know why.

I have read and reviewed three books by Laurain: The President’s Hat, French Rhapsody, and Smoking Kills are definitely quirky, while offering a unique and authentic cultural portrait of France.

With Vintage 1954, the quirkiness goes deeper, and is enriched by layers of historical fiction and time travel. And a bit of romance as well.

The book opens in 1954, with Pierre Chauveau witnessing a strange phenomenon above a Beaujolais vineyard in France. He drinks some of that wine that night, and the next day, he’s gone! His dog as well.

Then we jump to 2017 with four very different and high in color characters, who happened to be in the same apartment building: Larnaudie, who chairs the management committee meeting of the place; Julien, a bartender; the goth Magalie/Abby, an artist restoring statues; and even an American, Bob (see who is the inspiration behind this character), who got an apartment there through Airbnb.

Following some crazy circumstances, Larnaudie invites the other three to thank them for what they did for him. They drink a 1954 bottle. And the next day, they are all gone… to 1954!

I really loved the slow transition as the characters finally realize what has happened to them. As Bob has never been to France, he doesn’t even realize he has time-travelled!

The details about life in the 1950s were delightful, especially with the meeting of famous authors, singers, actors, artists, etc. And dogs!
There were also architectural elements, such as Les Halles, or other buildings, as they used to be before being destroyed or modernized.

I also liked how person uses some of his/her own gifts, family history, and relationships, to help each other and figure out what to do next.

The “scientific” solution and explanation was hilarious, while almost logical!

This short book has actually lots of layers, inviting us to slow down, to look around us, to enjoy the landscape, and to deepen our human relationships.

The bucolic scene seemed far removed from the city and the world and they all felt as though they had found the essence of life: humans we’re not meant to sit in an office chair answering emails, or checking their bank accounts on a screen, or reading about world events on their phones. Humans had lived for millennia in nature,experiencing its beauty, taming it and taking from it the resources needed for survival, as other species did. Building shelter, hunting, fishing and sewing, they had taken their place in the spherical ecosystem spinning in nothingness that we call Earth. At some point, it had all become rather complicated. We had followed causes, developed aspirations, started wars, and decided that technical advances would lead humanity to great heights. And so the mad rush for progress had begun.
Page 193

A beautiful and unusual story that will stay with me.

VERDICT: Antoine Laurain at his best, with history and time-travel giving rich layers to his usual quirkiness.

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What’s your favorite time travel novel?

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


18 thoughts on “Book review: Vintage 1954

  1. Ok so this will take some suspension of disbelief …… even if that character has never been to France how can he not notice that cars look very different and people’s clothes are different???


  2. I’m glad Laurain is doing such wonderful things with his writing. I enjoyed some of his other novels but I haven’t read this one.

    Favorite time travel — hm, I’d list Time and Again by Jack Finney (fun trip to vintage New York), Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis (extreme tragedy and comedy respectively), A Traveller in Time by Alison Uttley (strong evocation of Elizabethan England, via a house the author really lived in). I could come up with more but that’s enough for now.


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