About the book

Set in provincial France in 1936, Faulks’s second novel established his reputation and set out the themes that he would deal with for the next ten years.

Anne Louvet arrives to work at the run-down hotel of the title, in Janvilliers, a small coastal town in Brittany. It is clear that she brings with her the secret of a traumatic past. Almost at once, she becomes fascinated by a local lawyer, Hartmann, who lives in a large and derelict house on a headland with his wife Christine.

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The story of The Girl At The Lion d’Or

The novel deals with the growing love between Anne and Hartmann, the moral difficulties it poses to each and the way in which the private lives of individuals are affected by public events. Hartmann, who was a young intelligence officer in the First World War, has lived a full life in Paris before his marriage – a relationship which has turned out to be loveless. Anne has been brought up by a guardian after a scandal when she was a child, involving her father and the French army mutinies of 1917.

The political life of France in the 1930’s, as it descends towards Vichy, provides the background against which the deeper colours of the past are gradually painted in. Hartmann and Anne both feel themselves to be victims of events whose repetition they are powerless to prevent.

It was the depth of characterisation and the depiction of Anne’s emotional life, her passion for Hartmann and her determination to shake off the weight of the past, that resonated most powerfully with readers, many of whom still claim it is their favourite of all Faulks’s novels.

More facts about The Girl At The Lion d’Or

Hartmann reappears in Charlotte Gray, held in the Drancy deportation camp just outside Paris, bound for Auschwitz in 1944.

The Girl at the Lion d’Or was edited by Richard Cohen for Hutchinson. It was the first book that was sold for Faulks by a literary agent: Gillon Aitken of Aitken Alexander Associates, of whom Faulks is still a client.

The book was awarded the John Llewellyn Rhys prize, but forewent it when a delay in publication took Faulks past the age limit for the award.

The Girl at the Lion d’Or is the first in Faulks’s French Trilogy. The others are Birdsong and Charlotte Gray.

The book has been optioned for film many times, but not yet made. There is a script written by Sebastian Faulks and Rachel Wagstaff, currently with Bob and Co Films.