Book Review: 'The President's Hat' Is Charming And Fun

Dec 16, 2013

When French President Francois Mitterrand and his party are seated next to Daniel Mercier at a Parisian bistro, Daniel prolongs his meal to savor his close proximity to the man, imagining he is the fourth guest at the President’s table.

When Mitterrand inadvertently leaves his hat behind, Daniel takes possession of it, wearing it as his own.

Almost immediately, Daniel begins to believe that the hat has powers. He becomes emboldened at work, voicing concerns instead of stifling them. This newfound strength impresses not only his coworkers, but also his boss, who rewards Daniel with a promotion.

While moving his family to their new home, Daniel accidentally leaves the hat on a train, where it falls into the hands of Fanny. And the focus changes to her life.

So while it seems we follow the lives of the temporary owners, we are actually following the journey of the hat that serves as a talisman for its owners along the way.

Each of the hat’s caretakers feels empowered by the hat. Daniel speaks up and is listened to at work. Fanny finally has the courage to end an affair. Pierre climbs out of depression and begins creating again. And Bernard denies his place in the aristocracy, changes his political views and begins to shock his family by collecting Basquiat paintings.

Can a felt hat change lives? These four believe it can. And Daniel, the only caretaker who knows the hat’s true owner, begins to wonder: can Mitterrand win another election without it?

A paperback original translated from French, The President’s Hat by Antoine Laurain is not only a fun look back into the 1980s, but it’s also a charming little read.