While no Romeo and Juliet, Luka and Dora turn out to be lovers almost as star-crossed as their Elizabethan counterparts.
Luka and Dora first meet in kindergarten in the Croatian town of Makarska when—shades of Dante and Beatrice—Luka faints at her beauty and Dora awakens him with a kiss (and she’s only two). She whispers to him that he’s her “prince,” a motif Dragnic reiterates throughout the novel. Inseparable as children, the young couple even experiences the jealousy of Ana, Luka’s younger sister. But all Edens eventually come to an end, and so their idyll changes when, as a young adolescent, Dora moves to Paris. Meanwhile, Luka studies art in Zagreb, eventually linking up with Klara, a model three years older than he. Klara is more enthusiastic about the relationship than is Luka, but he nevertheless becomes her somewhat reluctant lover. As his talents flourish, an exhibit of his paintings is arranged in Paris where, after a 16-year hiatus, he unexpectedly reunites with Dora. This time there is no hesitation—they immediately become lovers and are again inseparable. After three idyllic months together, Luka returns to Croatia only to find that Klara is pregnant, supposedly with his child, a charade Klara maintains for the next 16 years, further tethering Luka to her against his will. Periodically he and Dora, who has studied the dramatic arts and is experiencing some success in her own career as an actress, meet up. But will they ever get together for good?
Dragnic avoids mawkishness by keeping her focus on the ache of love and on the difficulties of its fulfillment.