If ever there was a novel that could be hailed as the ultimate summer coming-of-age, Bonjour Tristesse would be it. Cécile is seventeen and on holiday with her father and his mistress in a beautiful, semi-remote villa in the South of France. Intending to spend her days doing little more than swimming and sun bathing, this plan is threatened when her father invites an old family friend to stay with them. Cut from a different cloth than the frivolous, pleasure seeking father-daughter pair, Anne is cool, calm, and determined to set Cécile on the right path. When it becomes clear that Anne's curtailing might extend well beyond summer, Cécile's youthful meddling results in far more tragedy than she intends.
Written by Françoise Sagan, herself - incredibly – only eighteen years old when it was first published in 1954, the novel is as full of angst as you'd expect from one titled 'Hello Sadness' and narrated by a teenage girl. It is however, not your standard young adult fare. Sagan's masterful evocation of summer is matched only by the clear-eyed precision with which she nails the dramatic, ubiquitous confusion of youth. A beach read that might leave you, as Sagan so succinctly puts it, 'nailed to the sand by all the forces of summer'.
LE RAYON VERT
Moving from the late-teens (of Bonjour Tristesse) to the late-twenties, or thereabouts, of Éric Rohmer's 1986 gem Le Rayon Vert. It is early July and Delphine, still recovering from the break up of a long term relationship two years ago, has just been bailed on by a friend. Not a situation that anyone relishes, and with the mass exodus of locals from Paris in August fast approaching, Delphine is left frantically casting about for new holiday plans.
Reserved, sensitive, and battling the sort of lethargy that so often afflicts when life is an uphill slog, Delphine is perceived as somewhat pathetic by her friends, who offer endless advice and unappealing holiday options. Embarking on a few of their suggestions, restless and dissatisfied she quickly moves on. We begin to see that rather than the opposite, Delphine is fiercely independent and unwilling to compromise. Angry even, at the role that society has cast her in as a single woman of a certain age.
Alone again as she wanders the coastal walls of Biarritz, she overhears a conversation about Jules Verne's novel Le Rayon Vert about the optical phenomenon of the same name. As one character explains, 'when you see the green ray you can read your own feelings and others too'. Later, a chance encounter with a promising stranger creates the opportunity to observe it for herself, her unsuppressed shriek of excitement the film's final, poignant note.
This year, as every summer, we'll be heading to Hyde Park for a look at the Serpentine Galleries' annual architecture commission: its 2019 edition designed by Japanese architect Junya Ishigami.
Articulating Ishigami's 'free space' philosophy which seeks a harmony between manmade structures and those that already exist in nature, the Pavilion's slate roof emerges from the ground, mimicking an undulating hill with an airy cavern below. 'Possessing the weighty presence of slate roofs seen around the world, and simultaneously appearing so light it could blow away in the breeze, the cluster of scattered rock levitates, like a billowing piece of fabric' (Ishigami).
Don't put off your visit if rain threatens on the day. As Ishigami explains in a conversation with Serpentine Galleries Artistic Director Hans Ulrich Obrist, wet London days have always been a part of his vision. When water falls on the black stone slates, the roof becomes like a mirror reflecting the sky and for him this is when the Pavilion is at its most beautiful.
Admire the structure from the surrounding grassy banks, or seek refuge, whether from rain or sun, with a trip to the Pavilion's cafe within. Open until 6th October 2019, check the Serpentine Galleries website for details of events held in and around the Pavilion until then. No need to wait until you're sitting in an aeroplane seat to switch on that out of office!