cover image Le Petit Garcon

Le Petit Garcon

Philippe Labro. Farrar Straus Giroux, $23 (259pp) ISBN 978-0-374-18448-3

In One Summer Out West , Labro's hero came of age in a Colorado work camp, circa 1955. In The Foreign Student , the protagonist underwent the rite in an all-male Virginia college of the same era. The little boy of Labro's latest title faces growing up during WW II in an unnamed town in southern France, presumably the author's native Montauban. The book begins promisingly with a section titled ``Innocence,'' where, in evocative, beautifully translated prose, Labro recounts the oddities of visitors, family members and physical surroundings. Each brief narrative bifurcates, meanders and folds back on itself, effectively recreating the diffuse thinking of children. Unfortunately, the meat of the book is spoiled. The title of the second and main section, ``The Visitors,'' refers both to German invaders and to the wretched refugees tumbling before them, some into the safe haven of the narrator's town, where nearly all the residents turn out to help--a situation which elicits the reader's skepticism cannot help but perhaps this sentence is awkward, but skepticism is the important word// see possible revision sss doubt. Innocent as he is, the child is also oddly mature, and recognizes his father's moral greatness in aiding the refugees. This would be fine if he came to understand the tragedy of the Occupation as well; lacking that deeper implication, the tale loses its resonance. (June)