The arrival of Augustin Meaulnes at a small provincial secondary school sets in train a series of events that will have a profound effect on his life, and that of his new friend François Seurel. It is Seurel who recalls the impact of le grand Meaulnes, disruptive and charismatic, on his schoolmates, and the encounter that is to haunt them both. Lost, and alone, Meaulnes stumbles upon an isolated house, mysterious revels, and a beautiful girl. When he returns to Seurel it is with the fixed determination to find the house again, and the girl with whom he has fallen in love. But the dreamlike days in the lost domain are evanescent, and Meaulnes is torn between his love and competing claims of loyalty and friendship.
Alain-Fournier's lyrical novel captures the painful transition from adolescence to adulthood without sentimentality, and with heart-wrenching yearning. Romantic and fantastical, it is the story's ultimate truthfulness about human experience that has captivated readers for a hundred years. In her Introduction to this centenary edition, Hermione Lee considers the qualities that have established its reputation.