Foam of the Daze by Boris Vian (1947) [L'Écume des jours originally and also translated as Froth on the Daydream]. I'd never heard of this book before the recent Michel Gondry adaptation (Mood Indigo -- which I really enjoyed), but apparently it is something like The Catcher in the Rye of French literature -- wildly popular among young people for generations and extremely influential.
I'd like to quote my own dear husband, Dr. Mystery, in his review of The Wanderer by Alain-Fournier: "In
classic French tradition, this book is about nostalgia, idealized
romance that turns tragic once it becomes real, the romanticism of
adolescent desire and yearning and the painful loss of that desire when
adulthood hits, and the impermanence of childhood idylls. The book is
melancholy and concerned with loss, but it's not heavy-handed or
oppressive and is often funny." In fact, I could just quote Dr. M and end this review right now, because in classic French tradition, this book hits all those same points.
Colin is rich and lives in a fantastical apartment. He is best friends with Chick, who is obsessed with Jean-Sol Partre. He also has a cook, Nicolas, who is extremely creative in the kitchen. He has mice that are his friends and a piano that makes cocktails as you play and everything is great except that Chick has recently fallen in love and Colin hasn't. He meets Chloe at a party, quickly decides he is in love with her, and they marry. Everything is great until, on their honeymoon, Chloe takes sick. Colin spares no expense in her treatment, but soon goes through all his money and has to sell his pianococktail and get a job, which nearly kills him. Chloe dies, they bury her in the saddest (but also funniest) funeral of all time, and that's just it.
As a girl who likes tragic endings, this book has a lot to recommend it. I am glad that I saw the film before the book, because Gondry puts a lot more life into Chloe and the other female characters, who are all pretty flat in Vian's novel. I was also able to really delve into the extensive (and helpful!) footnotes as I read and didn't have to worry too much about getting taken away from the plot or the characters, since I was already familiar with them from the film.
This was an interesting one, and definitely one of those rare cases where both the film and the book are worth experiencing, in either order.