ANIA MALINA by Lawrence Osborne

ANIA MALINA

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Ambitious and densely textured first novel about the doomed love of an Englishman for young polish girl after WW II. Jamie Lockwood, at 28, is wounded in France in the closing days of the war; and in a hospital in Laon he meets the 16-year-old Ania, herself badly injured during a bombing, and falls in love with her beauty and precocious innocence. Ania's father is dead (he was French), and her Polish mother temporarily disappears in the end-of-war chaos; in result (and partly through the auspices of the faintly decadent Dr. Kessler, of the hospital staff), Lockwood becomes Ania's lover-guardian as he embarks upon his aimless and disillusioned life as a postwar expatriate. Intellectual but world-weary, and touched--symbolically?--by disease (there are hints of thyroid, hints of heart), Lockwood suffers with the pain of the doting older man as Ania entertains younger suitors, though she slays with Lockwood as he finds rooms in cheaper and cheaper Paris hotels. With money from Dr. Kessler, the two embark on travels through Italy and Switzerland (replete with scenes as if from Fellini), and the increasingly unpredictable behavior of Ania is accompanied by her grisly coughing up of blood. In the novel's closing sections, Lockwood visits her faithfully in a sanitorium in the mountains of Poland (her mother, rehabilitated, has placed her there). At end, she dies by eating glass--echoing, the reader learns, the appallingly gruesome wartime fate that befell her cousin Piotr, whom she had loved in childhood; and the reader learns, too, that the good Dr. Kessler--symbol of a depraved and exhausted Europe?--had routinely molested Ania during her stay in the hospital. The wounded, doomed world here is rendered in prose sometimes slow but more often brocade-rich; the prevailing mood of decadence and loss are caught often in cinematically-perfected moments that please the eye as much as the ear--and that linger, However derivative in texture or plot--or in the character of the worldly but despairing Lockwood--the execution here is unsurpassable.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1987
Publisher: Scribners