Françoise Sagan burst suddenly onto the literary stage as a kind of girl-genius with the publication of Bonjour Tristesse when she was only nineteen. Readers were strongly attracted to the book’s novel mixture of youth, innocence, sex, and cynicism, and it quickly became a huge best seller. At the same time, critics recognized the emergence of a new literary voice: bittersweet, melancholy, and jaded, yet at the same time highly sensitive to the narrative literary power to express inner emotion. The eminent Catholic author François Mauriac, who strongly disapproved of the amoral content of her book, nevertheless admired its undeniable power and called Sagan a “charming monster,” a description that stuck throughout her career.
Sagan’s first book made her a celebrity, a status that she enjoyed her entire life as her books continued to reach a wide audience. The life of the idle rich, including its selfish and dangerous aspects, was an inspiration for her work, as well as an aspect of her own life. Though many believe that Sagan never fulfilled her potential as a writer, her works continue to attract large numbers of readers.