Au Revoir, Tristesse: Lessons in Happiness from French Literature

Abrams. Jun. 2020. 256p. ISBN 9781419742989. $25. LIT
In twelve essays, Groskop (Anna Karenina Fix) discusses works of the French literary canon by authors including Françoise Sagan, Marcel Proust, Colette’s Gigi, Edmund Rostand’s Cyrano and Honoré de Balzac’s Cousin Bette. Groskop recognizes that many of these titles were written by men and none by authors of color, and considers these works most interesting for her to revisit as she read many of them as a student. Groskop has an affinity for France. Every chapter boasts amusing personal anecdotes related to her French experiences, in addition to a discussion of a particular literary piece. She aptly notes that rereading a work such as Stendhal’s Red and the Black, can elicit a different interpretation when it is read by choice rather than to complete a college paper. Groskop provides thoughtful interpretations (i.e., her analysis of Marguerite Duras’s The Lover), but the book’s purpose reflects its title, to find happiness. Groskop achieves this by frequently interspersing comic asides that some readers might find irritating. Her comments about authors’ appearances, (Victor Hugo, “a man with bad hair,” Gustave Flaubert a “mournful walrus”) can become tiresome despite the attempt at hilarity.
VERDICT A lighthearted read for all fans of French literature.

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