The lives — and books — of teenage girls

Today at The Second Pass, Emma Garman returns to Françoise Mallet-Joris’ The Illusionist and Françoise Sagan’s Bonjour Tristesse, two compelling and remarkably amoral novels narrated — and written — by teenage girls in the middle of the last century.

The Illusionist centers on the protagonist’s affair with her father’s mistress, while Bonjour Tristesse involves the heroine’s “plan of sexual deception that ingeniously exploits the vanity, jealousy and desires of everyone around her.” “What resonates,” according to Garman, is the “shared mood of irresponsibility, in which the wider consequences, moral or otherwise, of one’s actions are scarcely of concern.”

“Fantasies of weddings and babies and maybe even a career, so omnipresent in contemporary chick lit, are conspicuously and pleasingly absent.” Although The Illusionist was published sixty years ago, Garman says its author “could have given Gossip Girl’s arch villainess Blair Waldorf lessons in amorality.”


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