Left Bank
By Lucia Nelson
Jan 19, 2008 - 8:09:02 AM

Madison Malin might have grown up in Texas, but you’d never know it if you saw her on the street. Madison is a model-turned-international film star, and she and her husband Olivier are one of the most glamorous couples in Paris. Their life seems to be perfect, but when their daughter Sabine disappears during a day at the Euro Disney-style theme park PlayWorld, the perfect façade begins to crumble.

Olivier Malin makes his living as a philosopher—which doesn’t sound lucrative, except that he’s written several best-selling books and is a sought-after television personality in France. He also has a penchant for younger women, and several of his affairs have ended in disaster. Olivier believes that Madison has a man on the side, so why shouldn’t he do the same? After breaking up with a publicist who works for his publishing company, Olivier finds himself falling in love with Anna Ayer, the British nanny hired to take care of Sabine. As their relationship deepens, Olivier finds himself wondering if he really belongs with Madison, or if he’s just staying with her for Sabine’s sake.

LEFT BANK is a charming, witty novel of manners. The novel opens with Sabine’s kidnapping from PlayWorld, then flashes back to several months earlier, when Anna first began working for the Malins. Ms. Muir takes the characters on some interesting turns—this could have been a predictable novel about the dissolution of a marriage, but becomes much more in this author’s capable hands.

Anna is an appealing character—she doesn’t want to be the other woman, and she’s uncomfortable in the role, but she cannot deny her feelings for Olivier. She’s an intelligent, quirky woman whose interest in French culture was sparked by her father, a Frenchman who abandoned his family when Anna was a child. There’s a fine subplot in LEFT BANK involving Anna’s search for her father, which leads her to an unexpected discovery about herself.

Madison could have been written as a shallow diva in the waning years of her popularity, but Ms. Muir has given her substance, especially towards the end of the novel. If only more Hollywood divas would age as gracefully as the fictional Madison Malin!

Readers who enjoy intelligent, witty novels about the ups and downs of marriage, as well as readers who enjoy French culture, will appreciate LEFT BANK.

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