cover image My Russian Love

My Russian Love

Dan Franck. Nan A. Talese, $18.95 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-385-48488-6

If Robert James Waller had attempted to write a Milan Kundera novel it might have resembled French novelist and screenwriter Franck's (Separation) latest effort. Less a fully fleshed-out narrative than a screenplay waiting to happen, the story centers around Luca, himself a successful (and rather insufferable) screenwriter and filmmaker. While journeying by train from Russia--where he plans to make his next film--back to Paris, the sight of an unknown woman making an unusual physical gesture triggers memories of his first great love affair, with a young Russian woman who was studying in France. The young Luca supports himself playing chess in cafes (the only time he loses is when dazed by love at first sight) and entertains himself and his Russian lover by joyriding on a stolen moped (this, too, the budding artist accomplishes with ""unparalleled skill""). Luca is intuitive, impulsive and impossible to take seriously, the sort of protagonist who has young women showing up unannounced in his room, politely asking him to free them from the shackles of their virginity. Eventually, family and politics separate the young lovers as the present-day story races to its predictable conclusion. Franck certainly knows how to structure a story, and his short vignette-like chapters slip by at a brisk pace. Devotees of lush romance may hear violins playing, but the pretentious central character is an impediment to real emotional engagement (Feb.)