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The President's Hat by Antoine Laurain
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The President’s Hat
By Antoine Laurain

A French novel in translation, The President’s Hat is a sweet bit of whimsy. Daniel Mercier, an everyday sort of accountant, inadvertently finds himself seated next to President Francois Mitterand at a brasserie; when Mitterand forgets his hat, Mercier appropriates it as a souvenir of the evening he sat next to the President. But when he dons the black hat, he feels transformed.
He felt as if his brain was bathed in a refreshing dose of sparkling aspirin. Bubbles of oxygen were fizzing through zones that had slumbered for too long.
In short order, the hat extracts his life from the rut in which it was stuck. But alas (or hélas, in French), Daniel, too leaves the black hat behind him on a train, where Fanny, a young woman becalmed in an affair with a married man, picks it up and puts it on to protect her hair from the rain.
The black felt brim acted like a visor, compressing the space around her and marking out a distinct horizon. In Batignolles, a man did a double take as he passed her. What kind of image was she projecting, walking along in the moonlight in her denim mini-skirt, high heels, silver jacket, and black hat? . . .The hat gave her jaw line a new air of distinction; she had put her hair up in a bun to help keep it in place. Perhaps she should always wear it up like this and put on a new black hat every time she went out. Donning the new accessory had made her feel somehow powerful; it had the same effect as the designer clothes she so rarely treated herself to.
The hat changes Fanny’s life, too, but rather than forget it, she generously leaves it on a park bench for the next lucky wearer, a perfumier who has lost his nose . . .

But not to give away any more of the plot. This little book is gracefully done: witty, wry, Gallic, and unpretentious, an enchanting glimpse into the lives of a few Parisian citizens, fortunate beneficiaries of the President’s Hat.

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Reading Progress

January 3, 2014 – Started Reading
January 3, 2014 – Finished Reading
January 6, 2014 – Shelved
January 6, 2014 – Shelved as: literary-fiction
January 6, 2014 – Shelved as: humor
January 6, 2014 – Shelved as: reviewed

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Valerie Bird A good read for a train journey, deckchair on a beach, sitting in a cafe in Paris. You will travel with the hat, learning or being reminded of France, their food, politics, money, class. A satisfactory ending too.

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