When a copy of Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain dropped through my letterbox as surprise post I loved the look of it and meant to read it weeks ago – not least because our honeymoon was in Paris and we returned for our silver wedding too. Sadly life got in the way but I’m so pleased I finally got to it. My enormous thanks to the folk at EDPR for sending me a copy in return for an honest review.
Vintage 1954 is available for purchase in all the usual places as well as directly from the publisher, Gallic Books, here.
When Hubert Larnaudie invites some fellow residents of his Parisian apartment building to drink an exceptional bottle of 1954 Beaujolais, he has no idea of its special properties.
The following morning, Hubert finds himself waking up in 1950s Paris, as do antique restorer Magalie, mixologist Julien, and Airbnb tenant Bob from Milwaukee, who’s on his first trip to Europe. After their initial shock, the city of Edith Piaf and An American in Paris begins to work its charm on them. The four delight in getting to know the French capital during this iconic period, whilst also playing with the possibilities that time travel allows.
But, ultimately, they need to work out how to get back to 2017, and time is of the essence…
My Review of Vintage 1954
An unlikely group of people sample a 1954 vintage wine that leads to unusual consequences.
Vintage 1954 is a little cracker of a book. It’s curious mix of the slightly quirky avant garde, balanced alongside a traditional fairy tale style with humour and romance added to the mix, that makes it an utter delight. I found it warm, witty and very entertaining. I actually found it difficult to accept that this is a work in translation because of the smooth and flawless text.
I really enjoyed the slightly fantastical plot and the manner in which the past echoes in the present in Vintage 1954. I thought the conceits of time travel, UFOs and science that underpin this book were handled with astute, yet slightly tongue in cheek, perception so that I found myself smiling much of the time as I read.
However, it was characterisation that so held me transfixed. Whilst the human figures are warm, well crafted and endearing – as too are the dogs – and I loved them all, it is Paris that totally captivates the reader. In Vintage 1954 Paris is not a setting; it is a living, breathing entity from 1954. Brought alive by historical, social and political references as well as the peppering of real people, it is the descriptions of the very essence of Paris that are such a joy. Reading this slim book placed me at the heart of that wonderful city with such vivid charm that I felt immersed in a bygone era. It is as if Antoine Laurain his distilled the whole of Paris into his writing.
I also found the themes beautifully woven throughout. This may be more of a novella than a full novel, but look carefully between the pages and you’ll find national identity, history, faith, love, truth, identity and real value. The manner in which all the perfectly wrought cast find their own truths is so uplifting. Gold and jewels may be elusive, but love and friendship are their own rewards.
I haven’t read Antoine Laurain before and had no idea what to expect, but the quality of the prose, the transporting descriptions, the captivating characters and the unadulterated pleasure I found in Vintage 1954 have made me realise I have missed out. That’s something I need to rectify as soon as I can. Vintage 1954 is a glorious book.
About Antoine Laurain
Antoine Laurain is a novelist, screenwriter, journalist, director and collector of antique keys. A truly born and bred Parisian, after studying film, he began his career directing short films and writing screenplays. His passion for art led him to take a job assisting an antiques dealer in Paris. The experience provided the inspiration for his first novel, The Portrait, winner of the Prix Drouot.
Published on the eve of the French presidential elections of 2012, Antoine’s fairytale-like novel The President’s Hat was acclaimed by critics, readers and booksellers, who awarded it the Prix Landerneau Découvertes. The English translation was a Waterstones Book Club and ABA Indies Introduce pick, and a Kindle Top 5 bestseller. This novel, full of Parisian charm, was the winner of the Prix Relay des Voyageurs, a prize which celebrates the enjoyment of reading. Since then, The President’s Hat has been adapted for television in France.
Antoine’s novels have been translated into 14 languages, including Arabic and Korean. Sales of his books across all formats in English have surpassed 155,000 copies. And The Red Notebook (2015) has become one of Gallic Books’ bestsellers both in the UK and the USA.
Also published: French Rhapsody (2016), The Portrait (2017), Smoking Kills (2018) and Vintage 1954 (2019).