The President’s Hat, first published in 2012, is a very charming book by French author Antoine Laurain. It’s a simple and romantic story, but simplicity can be powerful if done well.
(Wearing a hat confers undeniable authority over those without one. -Tristan Bernard)
The President’s Hat follows a few different characters through 1980’s Paris as they all come into possession of the unassuming homburg of the real world French president Francois Mitterrand. However it could be argued that the hat comes to possess them, as it gives those who wear it a new outlook on their life, becoming more confident in their work or abandoning antiquated values of their peers and embracing a new, more experimental culture. In this subtle way the book incorporates a touch of the fantasy, the hat possibly representing a desire for change within the characters.
The novel is short but not to its detriment. While only upwards of 200 pages it is a satisfying read that covers a lot of ground given its length with a number of memorable characters.
The writing also oozes with 80s culture, really giving credibility of the period in which the book is set. It paints a picture so vividly that you can swear you were there with them in the crowds of Paris. Which in my case, being a 19 year old Australian dude from an out of the way town, is a fairly impressive feat. The writing also has a sweet, smooth flow that gives the characters a sense of familiarity and warmth, like they were old friends one was reading about. The characters feel alive and are genuinely entertaining to read about and in some instances downright hilarious.
If I were to have any criticisms about the book is that it does seem to hold Francois Mitterrand in an extremely high regard, almost to the point of propaganda. Although I feel this a flimsy criticism and not representative of the book’s quality at all. Besides, I personally know next to nothing about Mitterrand and really can’t pass any judgement on him as a person.
The reason I love this book so much is its message of inspiration and hope, how even something as simple as finding a nice hat might spurr those with discontent to making decisions in their life to change it for the better. It shows how no matter what situation you might be in there are ways to improve yourself and the world around you. To get back into the groove, push yourself to new heights or even experiencing a new side of their culture. It’s the feeling of hope the book leaves you with that I find a lot of people may find missing in their lives. And that is why I cannot recommend this book enough.
If you are looking for a charming, heartwarming, funny and insightful book to start and finish in a day of traveling or just something to pick up and read while having a cup of tea, The President’s Hat is the book for you.
Au revoir mes amis, and I will be back with more plot next time!