The President’s Hat by Antoine Laurain

A few years ago, the French publisher Gallic Fiction had huge success with a book called The Elegance of the Hedgehog.  It was quirky, fun and very French.  Now we have a new book which will strike a similar cord.  The President’s Hat by Antoine Laurain is a charmer based around the wearing of a hat, Francois Mitterand’s hat no less.

One evening, accountant Daniel Mercier whose wife and son are away, decides to treat himself for dinner and goes to a brasserie.  He is enjoying the elegant food and lovely wine, when President Francois Mitterand and two friends sit at the table next to him.  Daniel is transfixed and makes his meal last as long as possible while he listens in and enjoys the close presence of the great man.  When the President and his friends leave, the President leaves his hat behind.  On a whim, instead of chasing after President Mitterand or leaving it with the restaurant staff, Daniel decides to keep the hat.

When he starts wearing it, he feels slightly different and he has a new found confidence.  Suddenly he is making important and innovative suggestions at work, and before long is promoted and all is going marvelously. Then, tragically, he leaves the hat behind on a train and is bereft.

The next person who finds the hat is a young woman, Fanny, who is enduring an unsatisfactory love affair with a married man.  He says all the right things, but well, really, she is just about over it.  When she puts the hat on, she sees herself differently and she decides to take action.

And so it goes on with different people finding and wearing the hat under varying circumstances.  They all get something different from the hat and there is a twist at the end.  It’s an interesting idea, to think of being perceived differently in the hat, and indeed being different under the influence of the hat.  An easy charmer of a read. $20

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