The President's Hat, Paperback
3.5 out of 5 (11 ratings)

Description

Dining alone in an elegant Parisian brasserie, accountant Daniel Mercier can hardly believe his eyes when President Francois Mitterrand sits down to eat at the table next to him.

Daniel's thrill at being in such close proximity to the most powerful man in the land persists even after the presidential party has gone, which is when he discovers that Mitterrand's black felt hat has been left behind.

After a few moments' soul-searching, Daniel decides to keep the hat as a souvenir of an extraordinary evening.

It's a perfect fit, and as he leaves the restaurant Daniel begins to feel somehow - different.

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Showing 1 - 5 of 11 reviews.

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Review by
3

"Desmoine took it upon himself to pour Daniel another cup of coffee. 'Important to drink coffee,' he added. 'Balzac drank litres of the stuff. You've read Balzac, of course.' 'Of course,' Daniel confirmed, never having read Balzac in his life."This is such a French book. It’s an isle flottante of a novella, vignettes floating on absurd custard of a felt hat. It is essentially the story of that felt hat: left behind by President Mitterand one day in a restaurant, it bestows great blessings upon the lowly clerk who snaffles it. When he leaves it on the train, it inspires its next owner to break off a dead-end affair. Inspires a grand parfumier back to his trade, and a man to speak his mind.It actually reminded me of Roald Dahl’s short story collection, Kiss Kiss. Something about the inevitable tragedy and/or weirdness from every encounter. Each of the characters is amusingly drawn - the over-ambitious Daniel, frivolous and fickle Mme. Marchant, Pierre Aslan the giant of perfumerie whose muse has eluded him for so long. So I actually found it quite dissatisfying to spend so little time in their company. This could easily have been twice as long and I would have enjoyed it more (although maybe I'm just not patient enough for short stories?).I think I'm not sufficiently French to enjoy this. Or I don't have enough experience with French history, culture and literature to enjoy it. So I'm going to give it to the Book Accumulator and see what he thinks.

Review by
3

What gives someone power? Is it their innate personality? Is it something learned? What if it was at least partially contained in something outside of themselves like their hat, for instance? In Antoine Laurain's novel, The President's Hat, newly translated from the French, at least some of Francois Mitterrand's power resides in his Homberg and when he leaves it behind at a restaurant, inadvertently sending the hat on an adventure through a series of different people needing to tap into some of its residual power, it makes for a creative and whimsical tale. Daniel Mercier stops at a rather elegant Parisian brasserie while his wife and small son are away, thinking to treat himself to a lovely meal and a good bottle of wine. As he's savoring his solitary meal, he notices that President Mitterrand and his party are at an adjacent table. Daniel thrills to his proximity to the most famous and powerful man in France and when Mitterrand forgets his hat, Daniel picks it up and wears it out of the restaurant. It becomes part of his daily attire and Daniel notices that with the hat comes a confidence and a decisiveness he's never before felt at work. And with this newfound self-assurance, which he attributes to the power of the hat, Daniel earns a big promotion at work. But then he, like Mitterrand, inadvertently forgets the hat on a train where it is picked up by Fanny Marquant, an aspiring writer who is travelling to a scheduled tryst with her married lover. Mitterrand's hat gives Fanny the courage to finally end it with her lover and inspires her to start a new story both in her life and on paper, the latter being one that she will submit for a writing prize. But Fanny too loses the hat, leaving it on a park bench for famous nose Pierre Aslan to find and to smell. Pierre has lost his most prized ability: the ability to create magnificent perfume. But by the power of the hat, Pierre starts to come back to himself, to be the man his wife married, to see himself once again as a spectacular nose. But Pierre loses the hat as well, to an error made by a cloakroom attendant. And so the hat is off again. Meanwhile, Daniel is desperately searching for the hat. But so is someone else. Everyone who wears the hat changes his or her life for the better as a result of the certainty and aplomb they each feel when wearing the soft, felt creation. They are linked by the journey of the hat as it touches each of their lives for a short time but they are also connected through Daniel's search for the valuable Homberg. The novel is a fun and clever one, twisting and turning with fate, grounded very firmly in the France of the 1980s. Whether the hat is truly the source of the positive changes in each of the wearers' lives remains open for interpretation but as it passes from person to person, it illustrates the changes wrought in France by Mitterrand's presidency. A charming allegory, this is well written and delightful and those who are looking for an original novel and appreciate a little serendipity in their reading will find this a thoroughly enjoyable diversion.

Review by
3

France’s president Mitterand leaves his hat behind at a Parisian brasserie, and Daniel finds it and decides to keep it. It brings him good luck, but then the hat brings good luck to other’s that take possession. A charming little farce, that is a quick read and gives the reader a glimpse of 1980s Paris.

Review by
3.5

Escaping from troubles at work, and not wanting to spend a solitary evening at home while his wife and young son are on holiday with her parents, Daniel Mercier decides to treat himself to a meal in an upmarket Parisian brasserie. He hasn't been to a good brasserie for over a year and settles down to enjoy his 'Plateau Royal de Fruits de Mer' and bottle of white Burgundy with a satisfying sense of self-indulgence. But as he begins on his oysters, he becomes aware that the person who has sat down at the next table to him is none other than the President of France, Francois Mitterrand. Daniel is captivated by his proximity to such a powerful man, and when the President accidentally leaves his hat behind when he leaves the restaurant, the normally law-abiding Daniel succumbs to a sudden impulse and steals it.And then the hat starts to work its magic. Wearing the hat the next day the normally tongue-tied Daniel discovers that he has taken on something of the confidence and charisma of its owner, and produces a career-changing performance in an important meeting. But hats are easy to misplace, and Daniel is no more successful at retaining possession of the hat than its original owner was. And so the hat starts its journey through a succession of owners, changing each of them in unpredictable ways, and moving on.This is a sweet little book, without being overly sentimental. I felt that if I was a little more familiar with the France of the 1980's I would probably have picked up on a lot more of the references, which would have added to my enjoyment, but even with my fairly basic knowledge it was still a very enjoyable read. And it described the eating of oysters so beautifully, that I wanted nothing more than to go to a nice brasserie myself and eat oysters, despite the fact that I don't actually like them.'Next came a basket of pumpernickel bread, a ramekin of shallot vinegar, and the butter dish, Daniel buttered a piece of bread and dipped it discreetly in the mixture - a ritual he performed every time he ate a seafood platter in a restaurant. The taste of the vinegar was chased away by a mouthful of chilled wine. ... The platter arrived, the seafood arranged by species on a bed of crushed ice, Daniel took an oyster, held a quarter of lemon immediately above it, and squeezed gently. A drop of lemon juice fell onto the delicate membrane, which squirmed immediately.'

Review by
3.5

Antoine Laurain’s novel, The President’s Hat (translated by Gallic Books) was originally published in France in 2012 as Le Chapeau de Mitterrand. The premise of this whimsical little novel is that the French president’s (the novel is set in the 1980s) hat has some special powers of its own that will change, for the better, the life of anyone who owns it – no matter how briefly their period of ownership turns out to be.And, luckily for a handful of Parisians, Mitterrand is forgetful enough about the whereabouts of his chapeau to set off a chain of events that will forever change their lives by allowing them to blossom into just the kind of people they have always wanted to be. One evening, Daniel Mercier is a bit shocked to find himself dining alone within an arms-length of the French president and two of his associates. But he is even more surprised to discover that Mitterrand fails to take his hat with him when the men leave the restaurant. He surprises himself one more time when he manages to snag the hat and leave the restaurant with it as if it belonged to him and not to the president. From the beginning, Daniel feels the hat’s power but he is no better at keeping track of it than Mitterrand, and soon enough, the hat ends up in the hands of several other people whose own lives need a little bit of a positive boost.Antoine Laurain deftly combines the real world with the more magical one in a way that leaves the reader wishing for a magic hat of his own. The President’s Hat works well as a feel-good fable but by the time the hat has changed hands a few times, it does begin to be a little predictable. There is nothing very deep here, but anyone looking for a pleasant change-of-pace novel should take a look at this one.

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