A haunting tale of war, love and loss from the author of Birdsong and A Week in December
The Sunday Times bestseller
On a small island off the south coast of France, Robert Hendricks – an English doctor who has seen the best and the worst the twentieth century had to offer – is forced to confront the events that made up his life. His host is Alexander Pereira, a man who seems to know more about his guest than Hendricks himself does.
The search for the past takes us through the war in Italy in 1944, a passionate love that seems to hold out hope, the great days of idealistic work in the 1960s and finally – unforgettably – back into the trenches of the Western Front.
This moving novel casts a long, baleful light over the century we have left behind but may never fully understand. Daring, ambitious and in the end profoundly moving, this is Faulks’s most remarkable book yet.
The subject of war is not new to Faulks, who has explored both world wars in many of his previous works. In his 13th novel, he examines the vagaries of human nature when under siege, primarily through the eyes of Robert Hendricks, who was at the front in WWII and whose father died in WWI. Readers first meet Hendricks in 1980, when he's an accomplished British psychiatrist visiting New York for a convention. Upon his return home, he receives a letter from Alexander Pereira, a neurologist in France, who explains that he served in WWI with Hendricks's father and has a job proposition for Hendricks. The ensuing relationship between the two men serves as a balm to Hendricks. Through discussions both therapeutic and confessional, he reveals the heart of his war experiences, as well as his postwar work, and finds a kind of closure. Hendricks, whose experiences were harrowing on the one hand and joyous on the other he met his one true love in Italy comes to terms with the lonely life he has led since the war. Faulks is renowned and respected for his fresh approach to well-trod topics, such as combat's assault on the human psyche. Here Hendricks posits the decline of humanity in the despicable acts that occur under the guise of war, but still throws himself into trying to repair the mentally and emotionally broken. Despite everything he's experienced, he will not give up on the human race.