Vlad Moranski is a small-time Canadian thief and gambler who has fled to Paris to peddle his book French Like Me to independent booksellers. French Like Me (actually the title of author Ken Samanski’s own first novel) is, like much of Vlad’s life, stolen, telling the story of his brother Carson’s love affair with Paris. It seems all of Vlad’s life has been based on theft and deception, and he has no better luck while trying to reinvent himself as a novelist in the French capital. Vlad’s book takes off through nefarious means, he becomes an arrogant jerk, and readers can hardly feel sorry for him when his nasty actions boomerang.
The prose is humorous in an absurdist way, with mentions of highbrow literature and over-the-top characters. The book is filled with quirky and kinky sex scenes that, at times, seem vulgar and bawdy—or, as the character Pam, with her mash-up vocabulary, would say “vawdy”—just for the sake of it. Pam, another real piece of work, is the least likable of the lusty women who people this novel, although honestly, it’s hard to find a character you really want to identify with.
Except for the city. Paris is written about more lovingly than any of the characters. If reading about dining at Parisian spots serving cheesy raclette over roasted potatoes, guzzling fine French wines, and wandering through side streets with odd little dusty stores like the Chicago Books and Grill (once owned by Capone, so the legend goes) make you long to travel to the City of Light, then this book should be on your nightstand.
After meandering, like an afternoon stroll, along the Right Bank in the 18th arrondissement, VLAD MORANSKI: A PIECE OF WORK, kicks into overdrive in the last 100 pages with time-jumping scenes and a bit of a mystery as to who hates whom the most. The surprise twist at the end that saves Vlad, for the time being, looks like a perfect set up for a sequel. Here’s hoping.
~Marene Gustin for IndieReader