A small-town crime

giraffes in Czechoslovakia

August 27, 2006|By Donna Rifkind | Donna Rifkind,Special to The Sun

The Slow Moon

By Elizabeth Cox

Another Green World

By Richard Grant

Knopf / 384 pages / $24.95

Turning his attention from science fiction to a World War II thriller, Grant has produced a big, noisy ripsnorter of a novel. Chock-full of Nazis and besotted with the grand tradition of German literature, the book is an odd mix of cheesy cinematic effects and intellectual ruminations, of simple props - stolen documents, shiny leather boots - and high-toned literary evocations of love and loss. Focusing on four Americans who first meet during a Weimar-era youth summit in central Germany, the elaborate plot moves back and forth between 1929 and 1944, when the same four characters are reunited in Poland, deep in the inextricable heart of the war.

Grant relies heavily on fairy-tale imagery to suggest the unreality of this world, where nobody is what he seems and violence lurks everywhere. Not quite a historical novel, not quite a love story, not quite Holocaust literature, the book nevertheless flirts with all three, a reflection on the fluidity of identity and circumstance that is itself a model of insubstantiality.

Donna Rifkind is a former literary agent and magazine editor whose writing has been published by Commentary, The Times Literary Supplement and The New York Times.

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