This French novel about America's Civil War is curiously, if divertingly, out of focus. Between great earnest slabs of history (which pothole the action), the aristocracy in and around Louisiana's Bagatelle plantation comport themselves with Gallic cool: no sprawls on the veranda with jumbo juleps, and a blessed paucity of yazzahs from the happy slaves. And, though the author's inspiration is obviously a much-viewed print of GWTW, his cast is immersed in tragedy long before the Yankee horde descends. French Caroline arrives in Louisiana as the orphaned charge of Adrien de Damvilliers, whom she marries in a rush of ambition rather than passion--he is twice her age. They have four children, three of whom are doomed to die--by drugs and dissolution, by accident, and one because of a heart attack after a wedding night arranged by Caroline. Adrien dies, and Caroline weds a pleasant French colonel, who will be erased by the war. And, all through the Adrien years, standing by is austere Clarence Dandridge, Bagatelle's manager and Denuziere's Ashley Wilkes, a self-isolated admirer of Thoreau whose secret wound had kept the true lovers--himself and Caroline--apart. Undemanding to say the least, but there are sprightly moments: ""The large bed sighed and shook under the stress of battle."" How now, Scarlet and Rhett. . . did you really give more than a faint damn?