cover image That Summer in Paris

That Summer in Paris

Abha Dawesar, . . Doubleday/Talese, $31 (338pp) ISBN 978-0-385-51749-2

Dawesar's keen, witty third novel opens on an author feeling defensive about the dirty bits of his oeuvre—not sorry they're dirty, but sorry they're not better received: "Even the French repeatedly poked fun at Prem's passage on drinking a lactating woman's milk." Prem Rustum, a Nobel Prize–winning Indian amalgam of Henry Roth (Prem slept with and wrote about his sister, Meher) and Salman Rushdie, is 75, and he's ready to try again at both love and the writing of it. When he searches for his own name on a dating Web site and finds 20-something Maya, whose ad reads "Write like Prem Rustum, think like Prem Rustum... be Prem Rustum," he seizes the chance and follows her from New York to Paris, where she has a writing fellowship. Both of them draw great pleasure and creative power from the long seduction that follows, and over the course of the book Dawesar (Babyji ) shows off her own superior dirty-bit skills in plenty of sex scenes and daydreams. She also firmly entwines readers in Prem and Maya's family lives and creative meditations. The breezy tempo of Dawesar's assured prose belies the gravitas of her subject, conveyed through believable dialogue between people who are serious about art, ideas, reading and writing. (June 20)