Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Thursday, 13 June 2013

The President's Hat - Antoine Laurain

'This is no ordinary hat.'

Translated from the French by Gallic Books (Jane Aitken, Emily Boyce, Louise Rogers Lalaurie)

It is November 1986 and accountant Daniel Mercier is dining out alone at a brasserie in Paris whilst his wife and son are away. What was a very pleasant evening becomes even more special as he is stunned to notice that none other than President Francois Mitterand sits down at the table next to him. His evening is transformed as he listens to the conversation at the President's table, and then, when he leaves, Daniel realises that Mitterand has left his hat behind. Pondering for a moment, Daniel takes the hat with him, and after making this split-second decision and putting the hat on his head, his life is never quite the same. 

On the back of this new and quite unexpected acquisition, Daniel suddenly develops a newfound confidence at work, sharing his views and finding the courage to stand up for himself: 'With unprecedented confidence, he watched himself negotiate the complex layers of diplomacy with the ease of a dolphin leaping through the waves.' ....'It was as if the real Daniel Mercier had finally stepped out into the light of day.'

Daniel believes that the changes within himself, the decisions he is making and the confidence he now has is due to just one thing: 'The hat. It was the hat that was responsible for the events that had turned Daniel's existence on its head in the last few days. He was convinced of that. Since he had taken to wearing it, the hat had conferred on him a kind of immunity to the torments of everyday life just be being there. Better still, it sharpened his mind and spurred him to take vitally important decisions.' Can a hat really have these magical, transformative qualities? What has made things so different for Daniel since his possession of it? What is it about the hat that affects 'a profound change...a metamorphosis' on the wearer? And what will happen next to the hat? 

This is an absolutely delightful, warm-hearted and magical tale about life and fate. I loved reading it!  Antoine Laurain has created a very special, mystical and entertaining story here that reveals truths about human nature in a clever way that made me smile and ponder as I read. Love, families, relationships, careers - the hat has a hand in the destiny of so many facets of people's lives in the story.

I don't want to reveal too much about the path that the story takes, except to say that the hat will transform more lives than just Daniel's, and that the story links together well as it develops and then it all comes back together very satisfyingly at the end. We are taken back to the 1980s and there is a some comment on the times then in France which I found interesting, alongside the step back in time to a place when technology was much more basic than that which we have today. 

The translation, with three authors taking on the different main characters, worked really well too. It's a really nice edition, with a lovely design and feel to the covers.

All in all, a real treat of a book and a joy to read.

Published by Gallic Books

Thank you to the publisher for kindly sending a copy of this novel to read and review.


  1. Ooh, I like the sound of this as it sounds a bit unusual, something a bit different.

    1. Thanks for commenting Tracy. It is certainly different, unusual, and very enjoyable I thought.

  2. This sounds wonderful. What a bizarre yet lovely idea - sounds so French! I must look into it.

    1. It's a fab idea and very well done I thought. Would love to know what you think.

  3. I got this one in the mail last week and have been itching to pick it up. Glad to see it's going to be as good as I think!

    1. Thanks very much for commenting Kristen. I hope you like this one too!

  4. I've been tempted by this one. You've just made me want it even more.


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