Ania Malina

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Set in battle-scarred Europe during and immediately after World War II, this intriguing first novel deals with a man's obsession with a younger woman. While convalescing in a French hospital, British soldier Jamie Lovecraft meets Ania Malina, a hospitalized Polish girl. Letters to his sister mention Ania only briefly at first, but later dwell obsessively on the girl and her physician, Dr. Kessler. As the story shifts seamlessly into first-person narrative first by Jamie, later by Ania Jamie is discharged and moves to Paris. Re-introduced to Ania by Kessler, he finds that the young woman's existence now centers on dancing and drinking. The more shabbily she treats Jamie, the stronger his preoccupation grows. The sensual imagery (which occasionally verges on the grotesque), pervasive sense of doom and lacings of French may limit the novel's appeal somewhat, but its polished prose and fine characterizations merit attention.

Praise

"The horrors of war and the complexities of obsessive love color this short but ornate first novel. James Lovecraft, a wounded British soldier, meets Ania, a teenaged, Polish-French refugee, while both are recuperating in a French hospital in 1945. Entranced, and believing her an orphan, Jamie seduces her, and the two begin a tour of the Mediterranean that is increasingly threatened by Ania's bizarre behavior. By switching his narrators, Osborne eventually reveals the tormented soul within the enigmatic Ania, seen by others as a Lolita-like temptress. Though flawed by overwriting and too-precious imagery, the work shows a promising subtlety and talent." - Shelley Cox, Library Journal

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