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 fifteen years since Cecile’s mother died. Cecile likes her, even though Anne’s more conventional way of life and views on how a young girl should be raised differ considerably from the way her father is rearing her. When she learns that Anne will be staying at the villa, however, she has misgivings, especially since Elsa is also there.
When Anne arrives, Raymond acts pleased, Cecile is conflicted, and Elsa feels threatened. Elsa’s reaction proves to be well founded, because it is soon obvious that Raymond is becoming very attached to Anne. Even Cecile admits that there is much to admire about Anne: She is not only beautiful but also cultured, intelligent, and an accomplished and successful fashion designer. She brings to the villa a more principled way of living and forces the others to a reluctant awareness of the shallowness of their lives.
(The entire section is 815 words.)