cover image Summer Rain

Summer Rain

Marguerite Duras. Scribner Book Company, $18 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-684-19403-5

In an afterword, Duras ( The Lover ) claims this story is mostly autobiographical, but it reads like a twisted fairy tale. Her fabulous account of a poor immigrant family living in a Paris suburb derives from the film Les Enfants , which she made in 1984. In the novel, the mother hails from Eastern Europe, the father from Italy; a series of temporary residency permits has allowed them to stay on in France, where they have produced a brood of seven extraordinarily handsome and gifted children. While the parents are lost in their passionate, obsessive love, the children are left to fend for themselves. The two eldest take responsibility for their siblings--and even fall in love with each other. Ultimately, this story is a thinly veiled parable about the nature of knowledge and the loss of innocence, revealing how original sin breaks people and their relationships. And while admirers of Duras may delight in a restatement of her archetypal characters (mysterious, transgressive mother) and familiar themes (incest), some will finish this elusive book disappointedsince reading-as-eating conceit ends previous review . The philosophical questions raised are neither provocative nor compelling enough to sustain the novel's paper-thin characters, surreal dialogue and shadowy love story. (May)