THE LOST SHORE by Anna Langfus


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This is the 1962 Goncourt, but the French grand prix is never an assurance of popular success in this country. A better gauge would be Mrs. Langfus' first novel, The Whole Land Brimstone, which introduced the Maria of this book whose experiences in many ways resemble the author's (Polish born; the war and the loss of her family; concentration camps; the resistance; etc.) Maria now, except for the often very real presence of her dead parents and Jan, is alone in a French city, waiting, preferring the anonymity and indifference of the city streets, pursuing a ""weightless"" existence, making meaningless acquaintances- in bars- on a park bench. One of them is an old man, Michel Caron who insists on taking her away- for her health- to a small town by the sea. She treats him diffidently, finds him ridiculous and exasperating in his humility. She is however unable to remain as deliberately uninvolved with four children who take up much of her time, and the death of one of them (a suicide) touches her. So also does M. Caron's almost fatal illness; he had sought life through her and she had only made ""death more tangible"" than ever.... A haunted book, bleak-- blurred (a recurrent word here)- desolate, which depends for much of its effectiveness on the mood so successfully established.

Publisher: Pantheon