Antoine Laurain’s ‘The President’s Hat’

the presidents hatEverything begins when Daniel Mercier sits down for dinner on the table next to the French President, Francois Mitterrand. When the president gets up to leave, he leaves behind his hat. Daniel seizes the opportunity and takes the hat with him as he leaves.

When he wears the hat, Daniel seems to feel different somehow. He’s more emboldened, more confident, more direct and ultimately more successful. It’s as though putting the hat on his head has allowed him to come out of his shell and become the person he should always have been. Astonished by his good luck, Daniel clings to the hat as a symbol of everything he’s achieved. That is, until he leaves the hat on the train and it’s picked up by a new wearer, who might just need a little inspiration of her own.

From here, the hat continues to change hands while Daniel continues his hunt to get it back again. Wearing the hat seems to give each character the motivation they need to make changes in their lives. As readers, we’re left to wonder whether this newfound confidence really comes from the hat, or if the hat is just a catalyst that unlocks what was there all along.

It also raises the question of fate, and how we have the ability to make our destinies and to carve out the path that we want, even if it might seem impossible.

However, each wearer has their own tale to tell and as a result, ‘The President’s Hat’ reads less like a novel and more like a collection of short stories all tied together by a single thread. It’s not until about half way through that they start to link together. Each separate part of the story was enjoyable in itself, but just as I started to get to know one character, they disappeared and the story moved on to a new one.

The book was clever, whimsical and charming in a way. But it was a really short read and I just didn’t feel like there was much to it. Not a huge amount happens and I don’t really have strong feelings about this book either way. Because it was so short, I’m not sure I can really say I enjoyed it. Maybe I should have read the blurb better before starting it, but I was left wanting more of a meaty story to get my teeth into.

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