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Rose Tremain is an artist who paints with words. This wonderful little book is full of surprises but mostly it is just excellent use of words the writing is outstanding. Curl up and enjoy a master at work with her art.
Publishers Weekly, 1998-04-27 Tremain takes risks in making the protagonist of her new novel a clever, precocious and inquisitive 13-year-old boy, but this gifted writer (Restoration) succeeds brilliantly in creating an intensely imagined and sophisticated story. Lewis Little and his mother, Alice, leave their home in Devon to spend the summer in Paris, where Alice will translate wealthy Russian expatriate writer Valentina Gavrilovich's latest medieval romance. Initially reluctant, Lewis is smitten by the beauties of Paris and by the bewitching (though 40-ish) Valentina, who comes up to his attic bedroom at night and listens to his halting translation of the classic, neo-romantic Alain-Fournier fable, Le Grand Meaulnes, which, in an ironic plot twist, is to have enormous relevance to Lewis's life. His hormones surging, Lewis develops a crush on Valentina even as he is becoming estranged from Alice, who has embarked on an affair with a roofer called Diderot, a budding philosopher who teaches Lewis the basics of existentialism. Lewis, a bit of a philosopher himself, perceives with resignation the emotional disjunction between his loving but inadequate father and his startlingly beautiful but moody and self-centered mother. As the summer progresses, Lewis makes friends only with adults?Baba, a black maid from Benin; Moinel, the courageous next-door neighbor; Valentina's aged mother?and begins to understand why some adults behave badly, commit adultery, plagiarism and worse. When Valentina suddenly goes missing and the police investigation lags, Lewis draws on his logical mind and keen observational instincts to try to find her, but what seems a grand adventure suddenly brings him into terrible danger. A typical brainy, na´ve adolescent who indulges in romantic fantasies, Lewis is entirely credible as he slowly acquires a sad wisdom and insight. This mesmerizing and immensely affecting novel almost begs for rereading to fully appreciate the subtlety with which Tremain ties the lessons of literature and life into a haunting parable of innocence lost. (June)
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