‘They know they have to dream themselves out of life and back into it, because life must always win us back’
Set in a French summer villa, the story – such that it is - unravels over a single week. The characters are a famous philandering poet, his war reporter wife and 14 year old daughter, a couple of Wife’s friends, an 80-year-old doctor neighbour and a loose cannon young lady, who is invited to stay. What follows is about love, desire, hidden pasts, hidden feelings, death and womanhood.
This was a book which left me rather cold. Levy is obviously a writer with skill and some of the prose in wonderful – for example: ‘I have never got a grip on when the past begins or where it ends, but if cities map the past with statues made from bronze forever frozen in one dignified position, as much as I try to make the past keep still and mind its manners, it moves and murmurs with me through every day’ - but I didn’t really connect with any of the characters. In part because there wasn’t any characterisation. These were projections of characters, None of them felt real, and so I didn’t care about what happened to any of them. They seemed only to exist to give Levy a space to show of her writing skills. For me, this is the worst kind of ‘literary fiction’, a book that is well written but doesn’t engage or tell a story.
I Could have also done without Tom McCarthy’s fawning introduction at the start of the book too, although this did remind me just why I found his Booker short-listed Q such a let down.
Recommendation: Do Not Shortlist