Books: On the Road

SIGNS AND WONDERS by Françoise Mallet-Joris. 408 pages. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $6.95.

Françoise Mallet-Joris writes in the tradition of Émile Zola. Her plots are complex and thickly populated, and her characters move up and down through the floors of French society like a gilt-and-glass Parisian elevator—and, often, at about the same speed.

Inexplicable Union. In this, her sixth novel, she deals with the France of the early 1960s, when De Gaulle was extricating his nation from the Algerian war and rabid rightists were murdering Arabs and detonating plastic bombs throughout France. Her protagonist,...

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