French writer Germain's sequel to her award-winning Book of Nights continues the dense, demanding saga of the Peniel family up through the late 20th century. Charles-Victor Peniel, otherwise known as Night-of-amber-Wind-of-fire, is the first child born after WWII in the village of Blackland in the war-ravaged northeast of France; his older brother is the first to die, victim of a hunting accident at the age of eight. Neglected by his grief-stricken parents, Pauline and Baptiste ("Crazy-for-her"), Charles-Victor runs wild. When his sister, Ballerina, is born, he nurtures an incestuous passion for her, initiating her into his world of imaginary monsters and real-life terrors. Other members of the Peniel clan are haunted by their own demons: Thad e, Baptiste's brother, was interned at Dachau and has adopted the children of a former comrade; "Heartbreaker," another adopted cousin, suffers the horrors of the Algerian War. And Night-of-gold-Wolf-face, the family patriarch, broods in the forest, siring two final sons as he awaits death. When Pauline finally commits suicide and Baptiste dies of grief, Charles-Victor goes to Paris to study at the Sorbonne, though he soon submerges himself in the Parisian demimonde. Tortured by his past, he tries to exorcise it in writing and sex, but as Parisian revolutionary fervor reaches its peak in May 1968, he is driven to sacrifice a submissive boy, Roselyn, in a sadistic murderous ritual. It is only years later, in Blackland, that Charles-Victor is presented with a chance for redemption, in the person of a small boy called Ashes. In her lurid, hallucinatory descriptions of Charles-Victor's transgressions, Germain conjures up a modern-day Maldoror; her branching histories of Peniel relatives twine into every corner of the narrative. Germain sometimes founders in her own excess, but nevertheless, this is a rich, penetrating and intoxicatingly unusual novel. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
This sequel to Book of Nights, which opened in the 1800s and introduced the near-mythic Peniels, tracks the family's saga through the Algerian War and the busy world of Paris in 1968. The story focuses on the young Night-of-amber-Wind-of-fire (Charles), whose troubled childhood propels him into murder and, finally, redemption. Written in a surreal manner, this novel is sometimes grotesque, sometimes eloquent, and finally a bit pretentious; readers may find it difficult to sympathize with the main character. The prolific Germain is highly regarded in Europe. Recommended only where Book of Nights was popular.--Lisa Rohrbaugh, East Palestine Memorial P.L., OH Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Night Of Amber ( Sept. 30; 336 pp.; 1-56792-090-X). The sequel to Germain's prizewinning The Book of Nights (English translation 1993)—a magical-realist chronicle that surveyed the fortunes of the ineffably grotesque Peniel family throughout the postwar period's defining political events and consequent social changes. This volume (first published in 1989) carries their story through the war in Algeria and the 1968 Paris student riots, while focusing on the life, crimes, and (ironic) redemption of misfit Charles-Victor, a sexual predator, sadist, and murderer whose outrageous excesses recall the exploits of Louis-Ferdinand Céline's unforgettable misanthropes and monsters. Germain pitches her tale at a delirious expressionistic height that is, almost miraculously, sustained for more than 300 pages. Night of Amber and its equally brilliant predecessor together comprise one of the most remarkably inventive French fictions since the heyday of Mauriac, Sartre, and Camus.