June 29, 1998 12:00 PM

by Rose Tremain

Thirteen years old is a long way from adulthood and, one would think, an adult relationship. But Lewis Little, the precocious narrator of Rose Tremain’s seventh novel, is a full participant in this touching (and not at all creepy) love story.

The woman Lewis falls for is 41-year-old medieval-romance writer Valentina Gavril, who has invited the young man and his mother to stay with her in Paris while his mother translates Gavril’s latest book. Lewis, immediately drawn to their unconventional Russian hostess, finds himself doing odd things, like wearing Valentina’s brand of lipstick—to taste her lips, he says. When she mysteriously disappears and Lewis sets out to rescue her, we are drawn into an elaborate guessing game about just how mature he is. What is clear—thanks to Tremain’s convincingly detailed storytelling—is that the relationship is based on more than a crush. And never does the author let readers forget that this is Lewis’s first love. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $25)

Bottom Line: Surprisingly tender tale of a quirky romance

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