cover image The Blue Bicycle

The Blue Bicycle

Regine Deforges, Regine Desforges. Lyle Stuart, $17.95 (386pp) ISBN 978-0-8184-0402-3

""The little savage from Montillac'' is what her suave lover Francois calls Lea, passionate heroine of this frankly lush, romantic novel of France during the war years 19391942. Daughter of a rich wine grower in Bordeaux, Lea sees her adored childhood sweetheart, Laurent, married to his cousin, namby-pamby Camille. Lea has lovers but never stops carrying the torch for Laurent, while tending pregnant Camille during Laurent's service at the front, holding down the family estate of Montillac, where Germans are billeted, and cycling through occupied checkpoints with messages for the Resistance. Deforges, a bestselling writer in France, gives us moving scenes of civilian panic and carnage and glimpses of Paris high life enjoyed by collaborators and black-marketeers. Radio broadcasts by the still unknown de Gaulle, and defeatist Petainhead of the Vichy puppet regimefire French patriotism and keep the underground going. Plenty of entertainment here, and echoes of Gone with the Wind, though it's hard to tell what lusty Lea sees in Laurent. Book two of this trilogy will come next year. 100,000 first printing; $50,000 ad/promo. (May 20)