Book review: Red is My Heart

Red is my Heart

Red is My Heart,
by Antoine Laurain
and Le Sonneur
Translated by
Jane Aitken
Gallic Books
US publication date 1/18/2022
Et mon cœur se serra
was first published in French
on 2/3/2021
192 pages
French literary fiction


Buy the book on my Bookshop

With nine books published in only fourteen years, Antoine Laurain is quite popular in France. I have read and enjoyed several of his books. They can feature quirkiness, mystery, or time travel elements. You never know what this French author is going to do next.
With Red is My Heart (Et mon cœur se serra in French, literally “And My Heart Sank”), readers are in for another major surprise.

Red is My Heart is indeed a unique book, the fruit of a very successful collaboration between Laurain and Le Sonneur, a famous French street artist known all over the world –he even exhibited in Japan and Dubai.

As can be guessed from the title, this is about a heartbreak.
The story is told with short and very simple texts, often displayed with various fonts and patterns.
They are accompanied by one hundred and twenty-nine fabulous black, red, and white extremely simple drawings by Le Sonneur. In most of them, you find a simple red dot, that can illustrate the bleeding heart, or the loving heart, or the sadness, or the glowing warmth of love, or whatever your imagination can see in them.

Here are just a few examples, but they only make sense when in presence of the texts:

Red is My Heart excerpts

A bit like in Brian Selznick’s books, the result is not an illustrated novel, but rather a coherent whole coming from a crossover between art and fiction.

Thanks to the minimalist and evocative style of both texts and drawings, the book is very moving. It goes quickly to the core of what love can do to your life, and how you can survive its doings and undoings. It’s all about loss and hope.

Behind the quirkiness of the adventure, let’s not forget that Laurain is here in a long tradition of French calligrams, where authors play with typography.
I’m especially thinking of
Guillaume Apollinaire of course, who invented the very word of “calligram”, but also André Breton, and various Oulipo authors –see the very last page of The Anomaly by Hervé Le Tellier, for a recent example.

And only a translator as good as Jane Aitken could have conveyed the real essence of the book to English speaking readers.

VERDICT: If you want to begin 2022 with love and beauty, heart and art, run right away under the glow of Red is My Heart.


Or any other great novel using calligrams?

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


17 thoughts on “Book review: Red is My Heart

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    • He has a lot of great books!
      I have all these reviewed here, check on my authors’ page:
      Antoine Laurain, The President’s Hat (2013)
      Antoine Laurain, French Rhapsody (2016)
      Antoine Laurain, Smoking Kills (2018)
      Antoine Laurain, Vintage 1954 (2019)
      Antoine Laurain, The Readers’ Room (2020)


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