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by Dan Franck

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-385-48488-7
Publisher: Talese/Doubleday

 Following the success of his debut novel, Separation (1994), a large bestseller in France, Franck has chosen to continue in a similar vein, simply substituting for that story's anguished images of a failing marriage the exquisite, excruciating memories of a perfect first love nipped in the bud. On a train from St. Petersburg home to Paris, successful filmmaker Luca is plunged into painful recollections, triggered by a fellow passenger's familiar gesture. He knows that the passenger must be the long-lost Anna, with whom he spent a brief interlude in Paris years before, when they were both very young. An art student from Russia, she walked into his life as he was immersed in a chess game in the back of a cafe. They soon became inseparable. Stealing a moped together gave them mobility, which they used to full advantage, whether weaving giddily through city traffic or exploring the countryside. Sexual explorations are part of Luca's misty memories as well, causing him to suffer through a sleepless night on the train before enlisting a conductor's aid to see whether Anna is truly on board. He disembarks still not knowing, is moved by the experience to end his current relationship, and tries to immerse himself in his latest film, the adaptation of a Pushkin story first read to him by Anna. He remembers their first separation, when she returned to Russia to be with her parents, newly exiled to Siberia, and their last meeting, when he flew to see her in Leningrad for a few precious days before losing touch with her for a decade. Finally, Luca's conductor ally makes a connection for him, and he enters a concert hall to come face to face with his past. Vivid, short, and sweet, this lush remembrance of romance lost pushes all the right buttons. Chalk up another hit for the formula writers.