Seattle author Andrea Dunlop’s assured debut novel, “Losing the Light,” tells the story of a woman who meets an old lover and remembers an era when anything seemed possible.

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‘Losing the Light’

by Andrea Dunlop

Washington Square Press, 352 pp., $15

A heady cocktail of nostalgia, a seductive Frenchman, a passionate love triangle, a mysterious disappearance: Seattle author Andrea Dunlop weaves an intriguing story about 30-year-old Brooke, now newly engaged, and her recollections of student days a decade earlier in France with her bubbly, blond buddy Sophie.

These remembrances of things past are sparked by Brooke’s present-day meeting in New York with sexy French photographer Alex, who flirts with her … but does not even remember they had been lovers back in Brooke’s study-abroad year. It was a time that permanently marked Brooke’s life: her best friend Sophie, much to Brooke’s horror, was also having an affair with the casually amoral Alex.

The intensity of Brooke’s feelings of betrayal surprised Sophie, and led to a three-way breakup with serious and unpredictable consequences. Embedded in those consequences is a mystery: Of the two friends, only Brooke returned to America. But what really happened to Sophie?

“Losing the Light” is a love letter to France — the cafes, the language, the “fierce elegance” of Parisiennes, the sun-drenched beauty of Cap Ferrat. Dunlop brilliantly recreates the tempestuous, “anything is possible” whirlwind of emotions that accompany Brooke’s coming of age, with the dizzying heights and depths of feeling. Everything loomed larger than life then; everything seemed alive with potential.

The “real world” of life back in Chino, Calif., and the reality of the foreign-student exams the group had to take — all of that paled beside the girls’ new attitude: “We preferred to concern ourselves with higher planes of thought: art, and freedom of the spirit. And love. And our perfect, shining futures.”

Most of all, there was glamorous Alex, whom the present-day Brooke can see with more clarity now. She observes: “Young loves just get into your bloodstream that way, their image looming so large in your memory that no real person who comes after ever compares.”

This is Andrea Dunlop’s first novel; it is a thoughtful, assured debut.