When Laurent finds a mauve handbag lying on top of a garbage bin, he takes it to the police who tell him they are too busy to help him now; he may come back tomorrow when their office is open from nine-thirty to one o’clock, and from 2 o’clock until seven. So, he takes the bag to his apartment and opens it.
He is greeted with the scent of leather and a woman’s perfume, and immediately I am intrigued. While the French women may not always apply lipstick, they do apply perfume. One of the things that I dislike very much is when an author mentions the word “perfume” without telling us what it is; I was so ecstatic when Laurain tells us it is Habanita by Molinard that I paused my reading to buy a bottle.
My joy continued as I read of each item extracted from this handbag: a black glass bottle of Habanita, a golden fob with hieroglyphics inscribed on it, a little diary/calendar, a fawn and violet leather bag containing make-up and accessories, a gold lighter and a Montblanc ballpoint, along with a red Moleskine notebook. There was also a book, Accident Nocturne, by Patrick Modiano “a novelist whose favorite themes were mystery, memory and the search for identity.” Fortuitously, he had inscribed the book ‘For Laure, in memory of meeting in the rain. Patrick Modiano.’ Now Laurent has a name to help him identify the bag’s owner.
The woman who owned this designer bag was struck on the head when it was stolen from her, and she now lies in a coma at the hospital. We follow Laurent, as he searches for her, and I am utterly charmed at his efforts. He waits for Patrick Modiano in the Luxembourg Gardens to see if he can find more information about the woman whose novel Patrick had autographed. He finds her apartment, and cares for her cat, while she is not even there.
Parts of this novel could be seen as far-fetched, perhaps, but it is an enjoyable read to say the least, and carries me to the heart of Paris which is exactly what I wanted it to do this July.
I read this novel, and Patrick Modiano’s Family Record, for Tamara’s Paris in July 2021.