The President’s Hat: Antoine Laurain
How can a mere felt hat create confidence in so many that wear it? What would happen if a meager accountant found himself in the presence of the French President and winds up with more than just the dinner he came for? Daniel Mercier’s family was away and he decided to dine in an elegant restaurant. One simple dinner would change the dynamics of his life as he sits next to this man and his entourage, envisions himself as part of the group and imagines being part of the discussion. Treated as if he belonged even though in reality he never made waves at his job nor did anyone really listen to his opinion, his life begins that night. When leaving the restaurant Francois Mitterrand the President of the French Republic is helped on with his coat and scarf but leave the hat behind. Daniel, rather than turning the hat into the matre di at the restaurant decides to keep the hat and wears it to work the following day. A meeting with the finance department turns things around for him as he presents his findings, lowers the esteem they had for his finance manager and finds himself revered at the end. Called into the office of the director the following day Daniel finds himself promoted and on his way to a new job. His wife and family supportive and not quite sure of what really occurred this once quiet man spoke up but was it the hat or did he really have the courage within himself all along. A train ride to his new job and destination would change things as the hat is left behind and a new bearer will find it.
Having an affair with a married man is not always going to reap you the benefits you want. Fanny Marquant is having a torrid affair with an older man named Edward who has no intention of leaving his wife. Clandestine meetings, trips to the same hotel and asking the same question over and over again did not give Fanny any reason to think he would ever leave his wife. But, a simple train ride, finding a black felt hat, wearing it just might give her the courage to end it all. Coming into the hotel, carry her pink notebook which she had not been able to fill the story she wanted to tell about her affair, she places the hat on her head, makes sure she looks just right and enters his room. But, not everything goes as planned and when she implies that someone gave her the hat and tells the circumstances what happens next surprises even Fanny. Hoping to create some jealousy within this man and forcing him to leave his wife, instead he leaves her at the hotel, angry because he thinks she met someone else but shocked at her bravado. Not needing the hat any more she leaves it on a park bench to be found by Pierre Aslan next a famous perfumer whose ability to identify and detect fragrances seem to have gone stale. With his wife, a concert pianist away performing, he seeks this time to hopefully regroup. But, first we learn of his visits to a psychoanalyst or psychiatrist that seem to be going nowhere. The doctor does not speak throughout the sessions and only when he makes up something that he has dreamt or creates some wild and farfetched situation does he even know that he doctor has listened. Smell is essential to what he can do and wearing the hat, creating a new appearance for himself seems to bring his senses to life.
Being part of the elite group does not matter to Bernard Lavalliere but to his wife it does. Living up to her right wing standards, fitting in with the crowd he begins doing just the opposite and finds himself at a loss for words at the end of an evening of dry chicken and wilted apricots. But, this man would also come in contact with the hat and the end result would change the course of his life, his thinking and the way many others look at him.
First, we learn more about Fanny and the fact that she has now one several writing awards, corresponded with Daniel regarding his lost hat and responded to his ad in the paper Learning more about her writing, buying a bookshop and her career we find her more revitalized, self assured and sorry that she cannot help him find his hat. But, recounts the next person, describes him and hopes that he might help find that missing hat. The story contains quite a bit of humor. The first three intertwine but the last seems to stand by itself as we get to know this man, his political viewpoints, his take on art and his change of the way the views life and thinks in general. Throughout this short book the author reminds us that the catalyst in all of this is Mitterrand’s hat and his approach to what he brought to France. Hearing him give a speech on New Years Eve, hoping to endear himself to the public even more and listening to the views of the wealthy to his ideals and values is quite enlightening. Each person that puts on the hat has life changing experiencing for the better. The hat creates a change of luck, life experiences and produces only the positive for each wearer.
Told in the voices of each of the characters we hear their thoughts, follow their movements and changes. From the many different restaurants to the art world where Bernard became a foremost collector the hat traveled to many places and then possibly back to its original owner. The ending is quite remarkable as Daniel finds his way to finally meeting the President and is the fourth member at his table as he returns the hat but that is not the end of the story you might say it is where it all begins again. Read the Epilogue and learn to what lengths the President of the French Republic went to in order to find The President’s Hat. An ending that will surprise readers and the final fate of each person you won’t believe. Humor, sarcasm, irony and tons of fast paced fun this is one hat that everyone just might want to wear at least for a short time. Can a hat really change your life? Try on this President’s Hat for size and find out! Author Antoine Laurain takes readers inside the minds of four interesting yet similar characters each wanting to be recognized for who they are, accepted and hoping to find a place for themselves. Confidence: Put on the Hat!
Fran Lewis: reviewer