Hey all! A book recommendation today for anyone who loves character-driven novels with romance and history! So, that’s definitely me. I stumbled across this book called The Girl at the Lion D’Or a couple years ago at my favorite bookstore, Westsider Books. I like thrifting at secondhand bookstores because you find books that have been forgotten or lost, and you can find some true gems.
This book, by Sebastian Faulks, is about a mysterious young woman named Anne Louvet, a Parisian transplant to the French countryside in the 1930s. We don’t know a lot about who she is or where she came from, but it’s clear she’s hiding some secrets from her past.
Anne starts working as a waitress in a hotel, the Hotel du Lion d’Or, and meets a cast of characters, including the manageress, a harsh woman who doesn’t care for Anne’s confident, Parisian manner; Roland, a young man who is creepily interested in Anne; and customers like Monsieur Hartmann, with whom Anne eventually falls in love.
Though he’s married, she and Hartmann begin a chaotic love affair, and the whole novel is set upon a backdrop of France between two world wars. News trickles in about the persecution of Jews in Germany and the plight of French politics at the time, creating this vivid historical atmosphere that doesn’t feel overwrought. It was also written in the late 80s, but doesn’t read like an old book. It feels timeless, and is written beautifully and simply.
From an early age she had developed the art of being alone and generally preferred her own company to anyone else’s. She read books at enormous speed and judged them entirely on her ability to remove her from her material surroundings. In almost all the unhappiest days of her life she had been able to escape from her own inner world by living temporarily in someone else’s, and on the two or three occasions that she had been too upset to concentrate she had been desolate.
If you like romance, historical fiction, inter-war Europe, or character-driven fiction!