Bonjour Tristesse relates the story of Cécile the 17-year-old daughter of Raymond a 41-year-old widowed playboy who live together in Paris but holiday on the French Riviera. Whilst spending an idyllic summer at St. Raphael with her father and his latest young conquest Elsa, she becomes attracted to Cyril, a student lawyer who is staying nearby with his aunt. The idyll is suddenly disrupted by the unexpected arrival of Anne, Cécile's former mentor and friend of her mother. Anne, who is 40 and the epitome of Parisian chic, begins to take Elsa's place as Raymond's lover.
When Elsa leaves and Anne induces Raymond to marry her, Cécile sees the carefree life she has spent with her father, since leaving a convent two years earlier, threatened. After contacting Elsa, Cécile begins to formulate a cruel scheme with Elsa and Cyril in which Raymond becomes an unwitting pawn in a plan to secure Anne's removal.The scheme works but not in the way intended and ends in tragedy.
The ending is very sad as father and daughter attempt to pick up their former lives in Paris but are unable to forget the tragedy that brings the novel to its close.
This is a very French novel that could only have been written by a woman and gives a good insight into feminine psychology as there is much interior monologue as Cécile tries to justify her behaviour.
The book is a quick read. My copy runs to just 154 pp. in the original language and took only two days to finish. The final sentence translates as:
But when I am in bed, at dawn, with only the sound of the cars in Paris, my memory betrays me: the summer returns with all its memories. Anne, Anne! I repeat her name quietly for a long time in the dark.
Then something comes to me that, with closed eyes, I greet by its name: Bonjour Tristesse.