That Summer in Paris
Abha Dawesar
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Buy *That Summer in Paris * by Abha Dawesar online

That Summer in Paris
Abha Dawesar
Nan A. Talese
352 pages
June 2006
rated 4 of 5 possible stars
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At seventy-five, Indian-born writer Prem Rustum doesn't think he will be able to feel desire or ever be beloved by another - which is why it comes as such a shock when over the Internet, he meets vibrant, energetic twenty-something Maya.

A kindred spirit, deeply intellectual, even an aspiring writer herself, Maya is so infatuated with Prem that in her personal advertisement she says ''Worship at his altar like I do.''

For the past year, Prem's books have meant everything to Maya. After her relationship with boyfriend Tom ended, Maya discovered that as long as she's reading Prem's books, she doesn't miss other human contact; in fact, life feels complete.

The two arrange to meet, and they immediately hit it off. Maya tells Prem that she's going to Paris for the summer to work on her novel about a white hippie in India. Prem tells her that he is also traveling to Paris, ostensibly to visit his famous French writer friend Pascal.

An overwhelmed Maya cannot imagine spending so much time with a famous man who has reached the acme of success in a métier she has just started out in. But in Paris they meet and spend their days in cafes, restaurants and museums, talking endlessly about art, literature, sex, and how art motivates love.

Clem rediscovers desire and gradually falls in love, but age has made him realistic. Maya becomes hypnotized by Prem after he touches her in front of a Degas painting. She feels in Prem's presence like "a very young flower receiving the first rays of the vernal sun and opening to the world."

Prem and Maya's relationship unfolds against the shadow of Prem's past - his first true love with his sister Meher, and his affair at sixty-five with Valerie and Julie, two sixteen-year-old French girls. The novel is really about Prem's very personal quandary, his love for Maya consuming him physically, morally and mentally.

Prem can give Maya his wisdom, his experience and his comfort with the world, but can he give her his physicality? Set in one of the world's most beautiful cities and steeping her pages in art, sculpture, literature, even sex, Abha Dawesar beautifully explores the nature of the writer and the power of losing and then rediscovering love.

Maya's obvious beauty and grace is potent enticement for the disenchanted Prem, even though his libido is now sorely lacking. Deeply intuitive and attentive, the author captures the heart of these two people who are intent to nurture and foster culture, art, friendship, perhaps even love.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Michael Leonard, 2006

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