Author of studies of Gide and Hardy and long a professor at Stanford, Albert Guerard has sculpted his seventh novel out of the secrets of fictive Christine Laroche's life. Christine/Annette is Charles Strickland's search for his beautiful, lost mother, but it is also no less than Christine's life rearranged stylistically, formally, esthetically. Painting, music, dance, theater, opera, and film are both the author's subjects and his vehicles. The basic plot is simple because it doesn't matter; the real ""plot"" is the artistic layerings through which Charles tries to discover the truth. What happens is this: Lovely Christine Laroche grows up with playmate Suzy Frelair, whose father arranges Christine's marriage to Philippe de Hautonville; annulment quickly follows, and soon after that, rescue from the 1914 Berlin by Dexter Strickland, who takes Christine back to Houston. There Charles Strickland is born; there Christine is imprisoned on Dexter's ranch; from there she escapes one night in 1922, Dexter disappears in Mexico, and Charles is reared by the Clarkes. Charles then devotes his life--this novel--to identifying his mother. All her life his mother ""only wanted to have a little fun."" She was a dancer, a playgirl, a whore, a showoff. She loved to spend money, said that her two husbands ruined lovemaking for her. She had one bit part after another in films--there are long lists of European and some American films of the time--and she hung out in cafâ€šs--again, long lists of these. Who or what was she really? She was Charles's imaginary, beautiful mother, an eternal sylph, the universal nymphet. The centerpiece of the novel is a 120-page screenplay written by her first lover and eponymously titled Christine/Annette: La Belle Parisienne. In that sense, the novel is about itself. Everything has already ""happened."" It's a literary adventure--especially for film buffs. Not every reader will have patience for the lists and the foreign languages, and many may agree with Christine when she tells her lover that she doesn't know what he's talking about; probably many of those who do know won't care.