Books: Once Upon the River Love

Andrei Makine

In his novel Dreams of My Russian Summers, the author told lively, fascinating tales of his hero's Siberian grandmother, then wavered into lifeless self-absorption in a present-day section set in France. His quirky, likable new novel returns to rural Siberia in the 1970s, where three clueless teenage boys try to make sense of rumored wonders: women, the Western world, adulthood. Their unlikely guide is the ultra-cool French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo, one of whose films is playing in a town 20 miles away on a river called Amur (Russian for Cupid). Though the boys live in a backwater where spit freezes before...

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