From Publishers Weekly
A beautiful young woman with arresting eyes, held captive in a 19th-century harem; an insouciant French aristocrat, scion of the famous Ch teauneuf-du-Pape vineyards; the Suez Canal; Empress Eug nie; Louis Vuitton. What do they all have in common? Kismet. In author (Harem: The World Behind the Veil), filmmaker and former Mercury House editor-in-chief Croutier's first novel, lush, sensual writing is enhanced by touches of magical realism and cameo appearances by historical figures. Casimir de Ch teauneuf, 35, is bored with his wife, his children and the family vineyards. He seeks a dream. Stopping one day in a shop displaying bric-a-brac from the Orient, he spies a portrait, a miniature of a young woman in a flowing green caftan embroidered with gold tulips; one of her eyes is blue and the other, yellow. Bewitched by her face, he falls in love; the next day, he sets out to find her. Meanwhile, across the world in Istanbul, in the Palace of Tears (where no man is allowed), the harem slave known as La Poup e (the doll) is dreaming of Casimir. The two lovers are experiencing r ve deux, parallel dreams. Casimir suffers many physical hardships in his travels to find La Poup e, but eventually he returns to Paris, advised by an Antioch seer to "go back to where [he] started and stand still." Croutier's dreamy tale explores the issue of destiny and kicks the traditional romance novel up a notch with its smart epigraphs and clever (if ultimately intrusive) historical asides. Though the glossy surface of the narrative has the ability to deflect as well as to attract, readers of Laura Esquivel and Isabel Allende will likely find Croutier's novel a pleasant distraction. The book's small size and odalisque cover should prove a draw, as will blurbs from Allende, Katherine Neville and others. Agent, Bonnie Nadell. (Nov.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Croutier's exotic modern fairy tale examines the Western fascination for all things Eastern during a period when Europe was renewing contact with the Muslim world. Casimir de Chateauneuf is a successful vintner amusing himself in Paris in 1868 when he discovers a tiny portrait of a beautiful woman, titled La Poupee
). Struck by the woman's unusual eyes--one is blue, the other is yellow--he becomes obsessed with finding her and leaves immediately for Egypt to track down the wandering artist who painted the portrait. When he does find this mysterious woman, he must endure great heartbreak, and eventually convert to Islam, in order to win La Poupee from an insane sultan. In addition to examining the cultural gap that separates Casimir and La Poupee, Croutier considers the social repercussions of the Suez Canal and the fragile relationships being cultivated by European monarchs and their Eastern counterparts. The historical threads are deftly interwoven with Casimir's love story, and Croutier's prose is poignantly cryptic. Bonnie JohnstonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved