Educating Rita

A voyage of literary discovery: Clara Reads Proust, by Stéphane Carlier, reviewed

Should Alain de Botton ever require fictional evidence of ‘How Proust Can Change Your Life’, he could do worse than to turn to Clara, the protagonist of Stéphane Carlier’s latest delightful novel. Clara is a hairdresser in a rather rundown provincial salon in France. She has a good relationship with her boss, Madame Habib, her colleagues, Nolwenn and Patrick, and her loyal clientele, and a more vexed one with JB, her boyfriend of three years, a muscular firefighter who resembles Flynn Ryder in the Disney cartoon.  One day, a mysterious stranger comes to the salon. He barely speaks while Clara is cutting his hair and leaves her no tip, but