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The Girl at the Lion d'Or by Sebastian…

The Girl at the Lion d'Or (1989)

by Sebastian Faulks

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: French Trilogy (1)

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Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
"What if all our lives are just a circle where at a certain point you cross an unseen tripwire that sets spinning the same process again?"

One rainy night young Anne Louvet arrives by train in the provincial French city Janvilliers to take up the post of waitress at the city's Lion d'Or. Anne is attractive and intelligent but there is a sense of mystery in her background as we learn early on the Louvet is not her real surname. Arriving in the city not knowing anybody Anne soon finds herself courted by local architect and playboy Andre Mattlin but instead finds herself attracted to married lawyer Charles Hartmann. Charles lives in an old mansion, which he is hoping to renovate, on the outskirts of the city with his barren and unhappy wife Christine. Charles reciprocates Anne's interest and takes her away for a weekend at the country house of an old friend. Once there their relationship turns sexual and Anne tells Charles the secret of her tragic life thus far in which she has been subjected to hardship and abandonment.

Charles feels himself torn by his love for Anne and the sympathy for her tumultuous up-bringing and the duty he feels towards his wife. Someone is going to be face devastation but will it be Anne or Christine?

Set in the 1930's the country is still struggling to overcome the physical and political scars of WWI and the rise of the Nazi party in Germany all add to the anxiety especially as the despicable Mattlin points out Charles is partly Jewish. The weakness of France’s governments; and the true horror of Anne’s girlhood secret all blend into a powerful story.

In truth there is not an awful lot of action rather this book concentrates on character development. It would be easy to feel sorry for Anne and that Charles has abused his position and wealth to take advantage of her loneliness but instead we end up almost palpably feeling Charles struggles with his conscience, he must decide between love,pity and duty. Any fan of John Fowles 'The French Lieutenant's Woman' will almost certainly also enjoy this as each contain certain obvious parallels.
This wasn't my favourite of Faulk's works that I've read but is a well crafted and touching read all the same. ( )
  PilgrimJess | Feb 16, 2019 |
I have to agree with the Sunday Times' review; it is "extraordinary (and unexpectedly) moving" at the end. ( )
  siok | Feb 4, 2017 |
An easy and enjoyable read. A love story plus a very interesting depiction of the political milieu of pre-WWII France, but with several flaws. I found the characters a bit unconvincing and their motivations false, e.g. Hartmann (a married man) takes Anne (a poor waitress) away on a weekend out of the "kindness of his heart" -- come on! There were also some undeveloped lines in the story, such as the allusions to Hartmann's Jewish grandfather by one of his supposed friends that never goes anywhere. ( )
  amaraki | Jun 12, 2016 |
This is a lovely little novel. It's a love story with a basic Cinderella set-up, starring Mme Bouin as the evil step-mother and the Patron as the Fairy Godmother. Very simply and intelligently told with little flourishes and cross-correspondences of meaning. I particularly enjoyed the metaphor of the cellar being built with what is happening to Anne. ( )
  Lukerik | Sep 11, 2015 |
Quite honestly Faulks' The Girl at the Lion d'Or certainly didn't have priority out of all of the titles in our mini-library at home, it probably didn't even have a spot on Mount TBR yet I caved in to its small size and the promise of easy-reading after June's Bulgakov marathon. I read Birdsong last year and, although it hardly changed my life, it is immensely readable and provides us with a very important, if fictional, account of life during World War I. The Girl at the Lion d'Or, as part of Faulks' 'France Trilogy' therefore promised something I could dip into with ease. (Charlotte Grey, however, is another matter entirely...)

Faulks focuses on the life of waitress at the Hotel du Lion d'Or; Anne Louvert, at first glance your typical girl next door but, in reality, a lonely young woman with a dark mystery that seriously hampers her struggle to maintain a tranquil, anonymous existence. Throw in a cast of intriguing French characters and a married lover; Charles Hartmann and we have a neat circular story that, without blowing me away, was a pleasant, speedy read to pick up whilst sheltering from the monsoon-like Manchester weather.

Despite the huge shadow of WWI that permeates this novel; i.e. Anne's Father and Hartmann's (who also appears in Birdsong) war experience, I unfortunately found myself feeling a little indifferent about the story and a fair few of the two-dimensional characters' within it. Even Anne, whose endearing normality and calm acceptance of her precarious existence can be so attractive, does irritate at times and I found myself being fairly unsympathetic towards the adulterous relationship between her and Charles that literally seems to spring up out of nowhere at the beginning of the novel.

Slight superficiality aside, Faulks clearly has a firm grasp on this period of history and it is undoubtedly interesting to explore the lives of those living in the wake of the devastation of the war and the then glorious decade that followed. Those living in the 1930s, anticipating further conflict yet mindful of the dark past are an intriguing lot to be introduced to and Faulks' domestic, occasionally more intimate portraits of these people suit the anxious times perfectly.

Not Faulks' best work but a nice little break and, since Anne hails from Paris, another little tick for my 'Paris en Juillet.'

P.S: Alex (in Leeds) did make me giggle when she told me that she read this novel whilst looking after a sick friend since it was, by the sounds of things, the only book without a cheesy looking lilac cover in the vicinity....

I think that probably sums the novel up, nice, but nothing to write home about....

http://relishreads.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/the-girl-at-lion-dor.html ( )
  Lucy_Rock | Jul 23, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sebastian Faulksprimary authorall editionscalculated
West, SamuelNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For my mother and father.
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The French newspapers in the 1930s offered a mixture of rumour, spite and inaccuracy.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375704531, Paperback)

At the outset of Sebastian Faulks's The Girl at the Lion d'Or, lovely, abandoned Anne Louvet seems almost willing to retreat into the anonymous routines of her waitressing duties--until she meets Charles Hartmann. He, trapped in a loveless marriage and feeling increasingly adrift more than a decade after serving in the Great War, is as enchanted by Anne's vulnerability as she is by his tender, almost paternal attentions. Their affair, and the cruel paradox of seeking a clandestine sufficiency, allow Faulks to pit the demands of desire against the necessities of duty, a task he pursues with tireless charm.

When Anne first arrives at the Hotel du Lion d'Or in the French town of Janvilliers, it is with the dual hope of escaping an unhappy past and discovering some degree of happiness. Undeniably beautiful and just bold enough to prod her own fate, she sees in the wealthy and restless Hartmann a soul that might redeem her own. "How was it possible, she wondered, to be awed by someone and yet to feel protective towards him too?" For his part, Hartmann senses in her the woman who, finally, might satisfy his need to offer refuge.

The secret of Anne's past, which she fears will drive Hartmann from her, conspires along with his gnawing uncertainty about her ultimate contentment to place their romance at a crossroads. Faulks, with deft restraint, never allows matters to lapse into the maudlin. Assessing the apparent inappropriateness of his love for Anne, Hartmann reflects that "there was something wrong ... in a society that could think of such generous feelings as unacceptable." Faulks's own generosity illuminates each page. --Ben Guterson

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:43 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

A young woman takes a job as a waitress in a provincial town in 1930s France. A married man from a nearby chateau falls in love with her. They go away together and an ill-starred affair follows.

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