Author: Antoine Laurain, 2012. Translated from the French by Gallic Books, 2013.
Genre: Period Fiction. 1980s France. Comedy Drama. Whimsical.
Other Details: ebook 208 pages/Unabridged audio book (4 hours, 29 mins). Read by Luke Thompson, Peter Noble, David Timson, Sandra Duncan, Jane Collingwood, and Rebecca Egan.
Dining alone in an elegant Parisian brasserie, accountant Daniel Mercier can hardly believe his eyes when President François Mitterrand sits down to eat at the table next to him. Daniel’s thrill at being in such close proximity to the most powerful man in the land persists even after the presidential party has gone, which is when he discovers that Mitterrand’s black felt hat has been left behind. After a few moments’ soul-searching, Daniel decides to keep the hat as a souvenir of an extraordinary evening. It’s a perfect fit, and as he leaves the restaurant Daniel begins to feel somehow … different. - synopsis from UK publisher's website.
The novel is set in 1986 and the hat does not remain long in Daniel's possession but moves through a number of temporary owners, changing the life of each in a subtle way. Daniel is still very attached to the hat and does seek to re-unite with it.
The audio edition has six narrators, each voicing a section, which I felt suited this particular novel. While I listened to the majority of this on audio, I elected to splash out for the Kindle edition as well. This was partly because I was enjoying it very much but also I found that the subtly of the plot meant that I felt I'd not appreciated it fully via audio. Still, it was a short novel and I read it in a single sitting.
I adored it. It proved a witty, charming fable that was very Gallic in its humour. Everyone in the reading group also loved it, one of the only books in some time that we could all agree was a delight. We also agreed that there was a hint of magical realism in the narrative.
'The President's Hat website - website for the book contains a game of 'find the hat'.