Justine Levy. Scribner Book Company, $22 (144pp) ISBN 978-0-684-82579-3
Near the end of this deliciously moody debut novel in the form of a continuous monologue, Louise, who's 18 and a true Parisienne, sums up her turbulent, relationship with her legendary model mother, Alice: ""It isn't serious. It's a game."" Louise is a pretty good sport, when you consider that this summation comes after she has spent an entire day waiting for Alice in a cafe. Louise, who is quite glamorous herself (judging from the number of men who try to pick her up at the cafe), mourns her separation from troubled, drug-addled, charismatic Alice, from whom she first ran away when she was seven. Louise's own coming-of-age angst, well hidden beneath her standoffish, sophisticated air, is stirred up by the anxiety of waiting and wondering if she'll again be stood up. In the meantime, she can't stop thinking about her mother, and the lyrical sweep of her memories--of Alice's drug overdose; her aggressive female lovers; her arrest and imprisonment; the way heads turned wherever she walked-- form the body of this simultaneously mournful and irreverent novel. Louise wisely contrasts what passes for their relationship with the sometimes lonely but ""calm and safe"" life she has had with her composer father, and she punctuates it all, including her dealings with a not very sympathetic waiter, with a winning directness. Hers is a very French sort of melancholy, and enjoying it may depend on an appreciation for both reckless glamour and the languorous pleasures of killing time in a cafe. Davis's (Almost No Memory; Forecasts, Apr. 14) translation feels seamless, and one wonders if the chord the novel struck in France, where it was a bestseller, will likewise resound here. (Aug.) FYI: Twenty year-old Justine Levy lives in Paris, and is the daughter of philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy.
Reviewed on: 07/31/1997