Bonjour Tristesse Summary
by Françoise Quoirez

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Bonjour Tristesse Summary

Cecile is a seventeen-year-old girl who is indulged by her careless father, Raymond. He keeps a string of young mistresses whom he doesn't really care about and allows Cecile to do whatever she wants while he's distracted. For example, she regularly goes to Paris to pass the time partying with friends. She tries to seduce older men. She left boarding school to pursue a life with more pleasure.

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Cecile, her father, and his mistress Elsa travel to the Mediterranean. Cecile says her father rented "a large, white, isolated, beautiful villa" there. They spend time soaking in the water and enjoying the sun. After six days, Cecile meets Cyril. They spend time together and he offers to teach her sailing. She says that she preferred friends of her father until she met him.

Things change when Anne visits. Unlike her father's young mistresses, Anne is older, worldly, and a friend of Cecile's departed mother. She tries to make Cecile more grown up. She recommends that she gain weight and that she do work while they're there for the summer. She wants Cecile to resume her education.

One night, in Cannes, Cecile notices that her father pays more attention to Anne than to Elsa. She threatens to tell Elsa of their private talk, and both Anne and her father react with anger. They promise to tell Elsa the next morning. Cecile tells Elsa, who cries and says she'll come pick up her bags. Cecile feels like she's lost an old friend.

When Anne catches Cyril and Cecile together, she forbids them from continuing to see each other. She says that Cecile is seventeen, and she won't let her ruin her life. She talks to Anne's father, and he agrees that they shouldn't see each other again and that Cecile should do work during the summer. When Elsa comes to get her bags, Cecile tells her that Anne and her father are getting married.

Cecile then schemes with Cyril and Elsa to break up Anne and Raymond. She coaxes Raymond into being jealous of a fake affair between Elsa and Cyril. When he approaches Elsa and takes her into an embrace, Anne sees and is devastated. Cecile suddenly realizes that she wasn't just scheming against some entity and understands that Anne is a human who grew through the stages of life and loved her father.

Cecile begs Anne to stay, but she leaves. Raymond is devastated at her going as well. They plan to contact her and bring her back but then find out that her car went over the edge of a cliff. It was a dangerous area where she went over, but they can't be sure that she didn't choose to do so, though a nurse says it was the sixth accident there that summer. When Cecile sees Cyril again, she realizes that she never loved him.

At first, they both mourn Anne, but eventually, Cecile and Raymond go on with their indulgent lives, though they don't rent the same villa again. Cecile says that sometimes late at night she thinks of Anne and feels sadness.


(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

On vacation in the south of France, Cecile and her youthful, philandering father Raymond are spending a leisurely, hedonistic summer in a rented villa. With them is Raymond’s mistress of the moment, Elsa, a beautiful, red-haired woman almost half his age whom Cecile finds entertaining but rather simpleminded and nonthreatening to her companionable relationship with her father. The three of them spend lazy days swimming and lolling on the beach, and they dance and drink at the casinos into the nights. Cecile, over-indulged by her father, is enjoying being away from school, where she has flunked a couple of her exams. Raymond is unconcerned with her lack of interest in studying to retake her exams. He acts mostly oblivious to his responsibilities as a father and is more concerned with being his daughter’s “friend” and “companion.”

When the three vacationers have been at the villa for a while, Raymond announces that he has invited an old friend, Anne Larsen, to spend time with them at the villa. Anne was a good friend of Raymond’s dead wife and has been part of their lives off and on during the...

(The entire section is 2,228 words.)