In Levesko’s debut novel, a deep-thinking young man ponders life and love in Paris and beyond.
Alex, a footloose freelance journalist and American expat in his late twenties, flees France (and a failed relationship) for Athens, Greece, where he quickly gets involved with two women: Iris, a seductive Greek beauty; and Lisa, an innocent American tourist. When he eventually returns to France, Lisa follows him and the two fall in love. Before long, Lisa is pregnant, and Alex must confront his mixed feelings about family and the future if he wants to be the partner Lisa deserves. Meanwhile, social unrest in Paris and beyond mirrors his own internal struggle. The plot of Levesko’s novel certainly meanders, as the protagonist bums around Europe, visits a monastery, falls in love, and struggles to translate Albert Camus’ deceptively simple novel The Stranger—one of many references to notable European musicians, artists and writers, including Erik Satie, Pablo Picasso and James Joyce. He debates relationships, existence and politics with his colorful friends, who are all artists, rebels and drifters like himself. At points, these lengthy discussions threaten to derail the narrative, particularly when Alex idly ponders big, meaning-of-life questions: “Does anybody ever figure out what makes him or her so special?…What makes a life worth something?” However, the detailed stories that take readers into the milieu of 1960s Europe are far more interesting, such as Alex’s firsthand observations of Prague Spring and his emotional trip to the site of the D-Day invasion in Normandy. Everything leads up to the dramatic events of the May 1968 protests in Paris, in which Lisa becomes actively involved. It’s a compelling backdrop that gives the latter third of this novel weight and structure, even though the author fails to convey the purpose or significance of the countrywide revolt. Yet despite such shortcomings, Alex’s journey from irresponsible, unfocused youth to a more thoughtful maturity will resonate with anyone who’s struggled with questions of how to live in the world.
An overly philosophical novel at times, but one that capably captures the turmoil and excitement of the late 1960s.