This is my third Antoine Laurain book and once again I have had a pleasing time reading it. The tone is light and folks are friendly and likable.
It begins with a Parisian woman, Laure, being hit on the head and mugged outside her apartment building very late at night; her bag was stolen, so she had no keys or phone. She was given a room in a hotel across the street for the night.
The next day the owner of a bookshop named Le Cahier Rouge found the bag on top of a trash bin. He took it planning to take it to the police or use the contents to find its owner. The contents gave few clues to the name of the owner, but Laurent was relentless in his search. Another barrier to the reuniting of Laure and her bag (and the uniting of Laurent and Laure) was that during the night she stayed in the hotel, she fell into a coma as a result of the injury to her head.
Along the way Laurent mentions lots of authors, actual and fictional. The most notable role is played by Patrick Modiano, whose book After the Circus I have read (and been pretty mystified by). Laurent finds a book by Modiano in the bag that was inscribed to Laure. “Laurent paused for a moment. So the bag’s owner read Modiano, a novelist whose favorite themes were mystery, memory and the search for identity. It was as if Modiano was sending him a message.” Laurent then waylays Modiano to learn what he can about Laure.
There’s a paragraph that repeats a thought from Laurain’s earlier work, The President’s Hat. In this book, Laurent notes this: “There, it was over. How was it so easy to disappear from someone’s else’s life? Perhaps it was with the same ways that you enter it. A chance meeting, a few words exchanged, and a relationship begins. A chance falling out, a few words exchanged and that same relationship is over.” In The President’s Hat the woman who happened onto the hat ended a toxic relationship and made an almost identical reflection.
One item in the bag was a red notebook with notes Laure wrote. And yes, that’s the name of Laurent’s bookstore.
Antoine Laurain, The Red Notebook, Gallic Books, 2015, 140 pages (I read the kindle version).