The Red Notebook – by Antoine Laurain


The Red Notebook is an excellent story by an exemplary storyteller with an exceptional gift for weaving the extraordinary out of the humdrum, mundane routines of everyday lives.

Sometimes only the Sublime can help us to face the Ordinary in life.

The story begins with a taxi dropping Laure off near her home, the lighted streetlamps casting an eery orange glow across the road. The light from the hotel opposite floods the pavement but nothing halts the snaking fingers of fear, ruthlessly clutching at Laure’s heart, like a bone-chilling burst of icy rain.

It was almost 2 am. Her handbag had been stolen, greedily snatched from her hand, after her assailant had shoved her head back into the metal door frame, causing her to bleed profusely, although she only discovers this much later. Her apartment keys, identity card, the vast bulk of her memories, and to her horror, what seemed her entire life, was lost in the bottomless depths of that handbag.

As her tears helplessly welled up, Laure shook like a leaf from pent-up fear and anger. At such an unearthly hour, caught between the dire distress and horrendous difficulty of trying to distinguish between the rational and the irrational, Laure decides to spend what remains of the night at the hotel opposite, across the road. The next day, the hotel staff find Laure lying unconscious in her bed, her head soaked in a pool of blood. She is taken to hospital, where she lies in a coma.

Gallant and heroic bookseller Laurent Letellier, out for a walk and not particularly happy with his own life, discovers a discarded, apparently abandoned handbag on a street in Paris, with nothing in it to indicate its owner. Suspecting that it was stolen, he takes it home, where among the contents, he finds a necklace with hieroglyphics on it, a red notebook, a signed book, and some assorted odds and ends.

Laurent opens the red notebook and instantly realizes that it is a woman’s diary. Unable to resist the persistent urge to read someone else’s diary, Laurent eagerly starts to read it,  only to discover the portrait of a kind, witty, extremely creative, passionate woman,  whom he feels he would really like to know. A strong impulse spurs Laurent on to locate this lady. Without even knowing her name, and with only a few items in her handbag to assist his search, how on earth is he to locate her in a sprawling metropolis city with a populace of teeming millions?

Even more determined to find Laure, Laurent tracks down the author of the signed book in Laure’s handbag, who unfortunately does not remember her name, but remembers what she looks like. He asks another author who reads hieroglyphics to translate the necklace in Laure’s bag. Laurent is ecstatic to learn that it is indeed her full name and he can now try to find her with all the imagination he can muster.

Much to his chagrin and dismay, he finds her in a coma in hospital. When he arrives, a man called William is there, apparently a colleague of Laure’s, who has been watching her cat. William obviously thinks that Laurent is Laure’s boyfriend, and he doesn’t contradict him. When William asks Laurent to stay at Laure’s house to watch her cat, he eagerly jumps at the chance, in a peculiar twist of destiny.

The real world slowly drifts in, like shadows flitting in and out, of Laure’s consciousness. Hearing the nurses talking, Laure realizes that she is in a hospital but she still does not come out of her coma.

Laurent stays at Laure’s house for many days, happily looking through all her personal photo albums, books, and collections. It helps him get to know her more fully, but it also makes him feel very guilty about the clandestine nature of it all.

When Laure wakes up from her coma, William is there, but Laurent had gone. When Laure eventually goes home, she discovers a note from Laurent apologizing for what he did. Far from being upset about it, Laure is deeply moved that he went through all that trouble just to find her. This inspires her to start her own search to find him.

Laurent is sadly melancholy and morose, and his daughter, Chloe understands why. Laurent has told her all about Laure. Chloe decides on an ingenious plan. A picture frame needs to be touched up. Laurent has told her that Laure was a framer in town. After going in and out of various framing stores, Chloe finally finds the one where Laure works, and tells her exactly where to find Laurent’s bookstore. Laure is stunned to hear this.

After many futile starts and stops, Laure finally gets the courage to go to Laurent’s bookstore. Approaching the counter, she creatively asks Laurent about an imaginary book, featuring a woman whose handbag was stolen, and a man who runs all over town to locate her. Quick as a wink, Laurent realizes that it is Laure, and true to the fairy tale, they fall in love at first sight and live happily ever after.

This book is creatively and imaginatively written, but its hasty ending gives one the impression of being a bit rushed, as the author wraps up all the loose ends to give a fitting conclusion.

Miriam Jacob




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