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Sebastian Faulks: The Girl at the Lion d’Or

Anne, “a slight, dark-haired girl”, arrives to take up a post as a waitress at the Lion d’Or hotel. She makes friend with some of the local men, including Roussel and Hartmann. The former is building a cellar for the latter. Anne goes to work for Hartmann and his wife, Christine, to supplement his income. Inevitably, Hartmann sets Anne up in an apartment. The affair advances, as Anne reveals her sad past to Hartmann. At the same time, Christine is worried about the strange noises in the house and Hartmann becomes involved, in his capacity as a lawyer, in a political scandal – a government minister and some underage girls. It all ends badly – for the minister, for Anne and for the cellar.

Faulks tells a fairly simple story but he tells it so well, evoking 1930s France like a Prévert or Carné film – you can almost imagine Jean Gabin walking in. The sad story of Anne, how a poor girl can be taken advantage of, not maliciously but still unpleasantly, while life for the rest of the characters, more or less, goes on. There are other sufferers as well – the minister for his weakness and Roussel for his, for it is the weak that suffer, while Hartmann, touched by all three events, survives and continues. A thoroughly enjoyable book.

Publishing history

First published 1989 by Hutchinson