LONGLISTED FOR THE BOOKER PRIZE 2019
SHORTLISTED FOR THE GOLDSMITHS PRIZE 2019
'An ice-cold skewering of patriarchy, humanity and the darkness of the 20th century Europe' The Times
'It's like this, Saul Adler.'
'No, it's like this, Jennifer Moreau.'
In 1988, Saul Adler is hit by a car on the Abbey Road. Apparently fine, he gets up and poses for a photograph taken by his girlfriend, Jennifer Moreau. He carries this photo with him to East Berlin: a fragment of the present, an anchor to the West. But in the GDR he finds himself troubled by time - stalked by the spectres of history, slipping in and out of a future that does not yet exist. Until, in 2016, Saul attempts to cross the Abbey Road again...
'A time-bending, location-hopping tale of love, truth and the power of seeing. Thoroughly gripping' Sunday Telegraph
'Writing so beautiful it stops the reader on the page' Independent
Booker Prize finalist Levy (Hot Milk) explores the fragile connections and often vast chasms between self and others in this playful, destabilizing, and consistently surprising novel. The book's first half, set in late 1988, unfolds fairly straightforwardly as young historian Saul Adler, living in London, prepares to travel to communist East Berlin to conduct academic research in exchange for writing a complimentary piece about East Germany's economic miracle. He asks his girlfriend, a talented photographer, to take his photo in the famed Abbey Road crosswalk, as a gift for the Beatles-obsessed sister of his German translator. But as he crosses the road, he is hit by a car and in many ways, his trip, and perhaps his entire life, changes course. In Germany, Saul both falls in love with and later betrays his translator, Walter, even as he suspects Walter is implicated in the East German surveillance machine. Jump forward to 2016, and another car accident in the same crosswalk upends everything the reader (not to mention Saul himself) has come to expect up to that point. The novel's first half may read like a fairly conventional portrait of a narcissistic young man intent on sabotaging his romantic relationships, but the second half is both impressionistic and profound, interrogating divisions between East and West, past and present, fact and fiction, and even life and death. The greatest divide Levy plumbs, however, is the one between the self and other, as Saul reluctantly acknowledges both his culpability in his own life's tragedies and his insignificance in others' narratives. Levy's novel brilliantly explores the parallels between personal and political history, and prompts questions about how one sees oneself and what others see.
Confusing and too fluid
I wanted to enjoy this book, but the story and writing felt too fluid and also fractured. In the end, I just wanted it over with. I could also not connect with the characters, and found the main character almost disappointing and boring.