Book review: 'President's Hat' is a story about power, choices

By Emily Cottam

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Sept. 14 2013 1:00 p.m. MDT

"The President's Hat" is by French author Antoine Laurain and features a black felt hat the affects the lives of those who own it. He will be at the King's English Bookshop on Saturday, Sept. 21.

Provided by Gallic Books

"THE PRESIDENT'S HAT," by Antoine Laurain, Gallic Books, $14.95, 208 pages (f)

From races to weddings, hats are a must in Europe. "The President’s Hat," a novel by French author Antoine Laurain, opens the possibilities that a black velvet hat holds for its wearer.

In November 1986, five years into François Mitterrand’s 16-year reign as French president, Daniel Mercier treats himself to a dinner while his wife and son are away. Daniel is an ordinary accountant who is thrilled that Mitterrand, the most powerful man in the country, is at the table next to him. The president leaves without his black velvet hat.

Daniel wrestles with the idea of keeping the hat as a souvenir to remind him of the whimsical night. But this is no ordinary hat. Confidence he did not know he possessed soon comes out in unexpected ways and luck begins to turn to his favor.

The hat is passed along by mishap and soon finds a new female owner, Fanny Marquant. Fanny is trapped in a long and abusive love affair with a married man. When she has the hat, she sees for the first time the truth about her relationship with her lover.

Truths about love affairs do come forth with her story and Fanny sees that being the other woman is not all full of romance and secret meetings. Fanny realizes that the hat has given her a gift and that in turn she must pass it on to someone else.

A retired perfumer, Pierre Aslan, becomes the next owner of the hat, followed by art collector Benard Lacalliere. The hat changes the fortunes of all who possess it. The hat returns to its original owner in a unique way.

"The President’s Hat" is French contemporary European literature. Although there are multiple characters within its 200 pages, Laurain captures each character quickly and in clever, colorful storytelling style with many subtle meanings.

This short novel is a reminder that many of life's most important events can be the result of many tiny details that shape our future in unexpected ways.

There is sexual content, sexual innuendo and some swearing throughout, including aspects of Fanny's love affair which are detailed.

If you go ...

What: Antoine Laurain book signing

When: Saturday, Sept. 21, 7 p.m.

Where: The King's English, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City

Web: kingsenglish.com

Emily Cottam is has both bachelor's and master's degrees from Brigham Young University and is a mother of two.

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