The President’s Hat by Antoine Laurain
Can one hat make a difference? According to this collection of loosely connected stories, it can. The book starts with Daniel Mercer. He’s an accountant with a happy marriage, and a solid but not really successful career. During a solo and indulgent dinner out, Francois Mitterrand sits down to eat at the table next to him. After the presidential party has left, Daniel discovers that Mitterrand’s black felt hat has been left behind on his chair. Daniel decides to keep the hat as a souvenir. As he leaves the restaurant, he begins to feel somehow different and soon his life takes a series of unexpected but welcome turns. Although the story doesn’t end there. The hat then finds itself belonging to a young female writer, a retired perfume designer and so on, changing the lives of all the people who pick up the hat and put it on their head.
I read this originally for Paris in July, but I never got around to reviewing it. I picked this book up as a spur of the moment decision. I was on my lunch hour at the library and I needed something to read. To that effect, the book found me as serendipitously as the hat found its owners. This book was a very enjoyable read. Each person the hat connected with had a lifetime’s worth of stories, layers and complexities. I like that no two stories followed the same path. The hat did bring a vote of confidence, a change of pattern for all these people. Its funny how much the small things in our life shape the larger aspects that we outwardly display to our friends, colleagues and family. I liked the overall message of this book as well. Although Daniel viewed the hat as a crutch for his success, he really didn’t need the hat at all. He just needed a vote of confidence, which is really what everyone needs to make better decisions in their lives.