By Leah Greenblatt
Updated January 12, 2007 05:00 AM
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Based loosely on the true story of Gypsy poet Papusza, Colum McCann’s lyrical fourth novel is as rich and sensuous as loamy, freshly turned soil. The titular character begins her narration just as the Hlinkas — a brutal paramilitary force in pre-WWII Czechoslovakia — have killed both her parents and siblings. Thanks to her Das Kapital-toting grandfather, however, 6-year-old Zoli soon learns to read and write, and eventually becomes a singer and a poet acclaimed by the wider world — a world that includes a non-Gypsy love, passionate English expat Stephen Swann. McCann’s research and lustrous prose bring Zoli vibrantly alive.