DREAMS OF BREAD AND FIRE

Nancy Kricorian, Author, Nancy Dricorian, Author . Grove $24 (240p) ISBN 978-0-8021-1743-4

On a university fellowship in Paris, Ani Silver recovers from a failed love affair and comes to terms with her Armenian heritage in this fitfully lyrical but clumsily plotted novel. Just a few weeks into her stay in France, Ani is dumped by her self-involved trust-fund boyfriend in the U.S. Still hopelessly smitten, she finds it hard to forget him, even with the distraction of her semiotics classes at the Sorbonne and her duties as the au pair for a rich American couple and their daughter. Only a fortuitous encounter with her distant cousin Van Ardavanian, who grew up with her in the Armenian enclave of Watertown, Mass., rouses her from her depression. After they meet on Christmas Eve in Paris, they begin to see each other often. Van says he is working for an Armenian relief agency, but he disappears on odd errands. After a romantic trip to Corsica, Ani discovers that he is carrying a fake Cypriot passport and confronts him. His confession comes close to shaking her love for him, but also launches her into a study of the fate of the Armenians at the hands of the Turks. Her mother's parents fled Armenia during the genocide and now live in Watertown; her father's parents were devoutly Jewish and disowned their son after he married outside the faith. Back in the U.S., Ani sets out to learn all about both sides of her family, while worrying about Van, who disappeared just before she left Paris. Kricorian (Zabelle) can paint vivid tableaus, but she often strains for poetic effect, and Ani's self-conscious romantic musings vie awkwardly with the Armenian themes for top billing. All sorts of threads dangle at the novel's hasty conclusion, and readers will be left wishing Kricorian had focused her tale more tightly. (May)

Reviewed on: 05/26/2003
Release date: 05/01/2003
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