My Russian Love

Overview

My Russian Love is a sort of literary miracle: a tiny, less-than-200-page tale of two cities - 1970s Paris and Leningrad - that nevertheless achieves epic status by virtue of its passionate emotionalism between two young people: a young French film student, and a Russian woman with a tortured past. My Russian Love opens in the present as Luca, a successful forty-year-old filmmaker is returning to Paris from the newly renamed St. Petersburg, where he intends to shoot a film based on a short story by Pushkin. In ...
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Overview

My Russian Love is a sort of literary miracle: a tiny, less-than-200-page tale of two cities - 1970s Paris and Leningrad - that nevertheless achieves epic status by virtue of its passionate emotionalism between two young people: a young French film student, and a Russian woman with a tortured past. My Russian Love opens in the present as Luca, a successful forty-year-old filmmaker is returning to Paris from the newly renamed St. Petersburg, where he intends to shoot a film based on a short story by Pushkin. In the dining car of the train, five tables in front of him and across the aisle, he sees a woman make an unusual gesture, tossing her hair back and putting her palm to the back of her neck in pain. The gesture shocks him, awakening a twenty-year-old memory he had thought buried forever. Before he can react, the girl rises from the table and disappears. The memory is of a girl named Anna, the great love of Luca's youth, and the rest of the novel is a braid woven of two strands: a recounting, in passionately intimate detail, of how Luca and Anna met, fell in love, and were separated; and the story of Luca's increasingly desperate attempt to find the girl he glimpsed on the train. Despite its simplicity of style, My Russian Love is a complex, seamless story spanning a generation, effortlessly switching locales between St. Petersburg, Paris, and New York, where it arrives at its shattering conclusion.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
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.)
Kirkus Reviews
Following the success of his debut novel, Separation (1994), a large bestseller in France, Franck has chosen to continue in a similar vein, simply substituting for that story's anguished images of a failing marriage the exquisite, excruciating memories of a perfect first love nipped in the bud.

On a train from St. Petersburg home to Paris, successful filmmaker Luca is plunged into painful recollections, triggered by a fellow passenger's familiar gesture. He knows that the passenger must be the long-lost Anna, with whom he spent a brief interlude in Paris years before, when they were both very young. An art student from Russia, she walked into his life as he was immersed in a chess game in the back of a cafe. They soon became inseparable. Stealing a moped together gave them mobility, which they used to full advantage, whether weaving giddily through city traffic or exploring the countryside. Sexual explorations are part of Luca's misty memories as well, causing him to suffer through a sleepless night on the train before enlisting a conductor's aid to see whether Anna is truly on board. He disembarks still not knowing, is moved by the experience to end his current relationship, and tries to immerse himself in his latest film, the adaptation of a Pushkin story first read to him by Anna. He remembers their first separation, when she returned to Russia to be with her parents, newly exiled to Siberia, and their last meeting, when he flew to see her in Leningrad for a few precious days before losing touch with her for a decade. Finally, Luca's conductor ally makes a connection for him, and he enters a concert hall to come face to face with his past.

Vivid, short, and sweet, this lush remembrance of romance lost pushes all the right buttons. Chalk up another hit for the formula writers.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385484886
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/20/1997
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 4.80 (w) x 7.82 (h) x 0.75 (d)

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