Groskop has continually surprising reflections, having steeped herself, in the meantime, in a dozen authors’ biographies. She isn’t trying to unearth new gems or evangelize for the overlooked; this is a star show about books and writers so famous that Groskop can compare them to celebrated films ... I’m damned if I’ve met three recreational readers as astute and amusing as she is about everyone from Flaubert to Françoise Sagan. She knows she’s funny telling stories of her own follies and pretensions and of her girlhood ambitions to master French while growing up in Somerset, England ... Reading Groskop, we lose our academic pretensions and realize our love for literature—that is, for books that measure themselves against life rather than against the latest grad-school fad ... Groskop is the best book buddy I’ve never met.
... offers the reader a handy shortcut through the hard graft of learning these lessons for oneself ... Part-memoir, part-cultural analysis, Au Revoir, Tristesse is composed of 12 short chapters, each framed by a pithy, witty epithet that summarises the thrust of Groskop’s central thesis: that books play an important role in helping us to navigate the emerging narratives of our own lives ... Her readings are biographically as well as textually informed, and she never passes up the opportunity to use titillating titbits of historical lore to animate her argument ... the best parts of Au Revoir, Tristesse are when Groskop describes the changing nature of her relationship with France and the books that had such a crucial part in her self-definition ... Groskop's re-evaluation of her own relationship to the books says something urgent about literature’s ability to challenge us as well as 'escape ourselves and find a better way to live'. It is also a great argument for rereading, a neglected indulgence in these nouvelle-worshipping, time-poor days ... The personal story that Groskop presents as a backdrop to this cultural exploration is not, however, in any way, exceptional. It offers simple, universal truths that even those illiterate in the French language will relate to.
... witty and informative ... When Ms. Groskop wrote a weekly commentary for the Guardian on the Poldark television series, her columns were more entertaining than their subject. Here, too, she steals the show from her ostensible subject, using ironic autobiography and solid scholarship to guide us into the steamy territory of modern French letters ... a vividly personal Gallic gallimaufry ... The richness of French literature means that some heavy hitters are missing. It might be unfortunate that we meet Gustave Flaubert but not Jules Verne, and Victor Hugo but not Émile Zola ... Ms. Groskop always goes for the joke, but Au Revoir, Tristesse abounds in fascinating details that reflect deep learning and real enthusiasm ... Ms. Groskop is a skilled raconteuse who brings people—and the page—to life. She writes with a self-deprecating appreciation of the Frenchman or -woman manqué(e) that lurks in us all. You don’t have to be a savant to enjoy this book, though a little schoolroom French will go a long way. And Au Revoir, Tristesse will make a witty, seductive companion should you find yourself unaccountably alone between 4 and 6 in the afternoon.
[Groskop] succeeds; not only in finding them in a quirky assortment of guises, but also, more importantly, in making the process of looking for them fun — which makes this book feel a bit like a game of hide and seek. So prepare to run rampage through the grand mansions of French literature, to rummage around in biographies, skedaddle through plots, overturning conventions and sending pomposity flying as you hunt down the secrets of human jollity ... Groskop sifts through plots, quotes, anecdotes and literary criticisms with the rapacious eye of a comedian ... A rather over-generous sprinkling of digressive, somewhat self-indulgent though determinedly self-deprecating personal stories are thrown into the chatty mix ... a playful sort of hybrid. It is drawn from a peculiar no man’s slot on the shelves; somewhere between the pass notes and the personal memoirs, next to self-help manuals and alongside comedy. Will you find happiness inside it? Well, there’s definitely lots of irreverent laughter. There’s that sense of wellbeing that comes from discovering that even the life of a Cambridge graduate, fluent in at least two foreign languages, can still be a bit rubbish. There’s the social ease that is brought by knowing, as you prepare for a dinner party, that you will be arriving forearmed with plenty of clever little opinions and, failing that, a load of salacious gossip ... offers the simple happiness of knowing that there are loads of amazing French novels out there still waiting to be read — or re-read.
Every chapter boasts amusing personal anecdotes ... Groskop provides thoughtful interpretations...but the book's purpose reflects its title, to find happiness. Groskop achieves this by frequently interspersing comic asides that some readers might find irritating. Her comments about authors' appearances...can become tiresome despite the attempt at hilarity ... A lighthearted read for all fans of French literature.
... a lighthearted and insightful romp ... Groskop presents her younger self as a wide-eyed reader who interacted with texts with the innocent freshness of a more intelligent Bertie Wooster, to reliably amusing effect. The book’s greatest asset lies in Groskop’s restating of insights derived from literature ... This is a book to dip into cheerfully, whether to recall novels read years ago or to find an entertaining entrée into those yet unread.
... [a] breezy, enthusiastic riff on 12 canonical (white, mostly male) writers ... However, her attempt to show 'the intersection between Frenchness and happiness' by glossing over works by Proust, Hugo, Camus, Flaubert, Balzac and others is unconvincing ... There seems nothing particularly French about these life lessons, and, in the end, the author admits that her Francophilia came from needing 'a pretend foreign identity in order to feel happy'—a need she has happily outgrown. An exuberant yet superficial celebration of French classics.