Across a continent still reeling from World War I, a “ravishingly beautiful” (Paula McClain) story about a love affair between two Americans and the lie that changes everything.
France, 1921—Tom, a young American orphaned in World War I, is helping comfort the grieving families who travel through Verdun, seeking answers about their loved ones. But nothing in his past—not his rough Chicago childhood nor his experiences driving ambulances across French battlefields—can prepare Tom for the arrival of Sarah Hagen.
From the moment he meets her, a disarmingly magnetic woman looking for news of her missing husband, he knows he will help her in any way he can—even if that means crossing an unforgivable line. As their affair takes them across a fractured Europe careening toward World War 2, Tom and Sarah learn how love can be both a cure for—and a distraction from—the realities of a world turned upside down. But they can only hide from the truth for so long.
When news of an amnesiac soldier in Bologna reaches Tom in Paris, he sets off as a journalist to uncover the story, only to find Sarah at the soldier’s bedside, hopeful as ever. Both are surprised to encounter an Austrian journalist named Paul with his own interest in the amnesiac. As they confront the past, Tom’s actions come back to haunt him, and each is forced to make a choice that will change their lives forever.
A deeply transporting novel about love and identity, truth and consequences, The Verdun Affair is a page-turning and vividly imagined “literary romance… [that] unravels a love triangle and its players’ secrets” (Los Angeles Times).
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Bittersweet yet still hopeful, The Verdun Affair reminded us of the aching humanity of Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient and Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale. In the ruined city of Verdun, France, in the immediate aftermath of World War I, American expats Tom and Sarah fall into a tumultuous affair while Sarah searches for her husband, who was declared missing during the war. Nick Dybek’s lyrical historical romance spans decades and continents. As the story shifts back and forth between France, 1920s Italy, and 1950s Los Angeles, it becomes a complex meditation on loss, duty, and devotion.
Dybek's gripping second novel (after When Captain Flint Was Still a Good Man), a cleverly constructed page-turner, travels back and forth in time between a European continent devastated by World War I and 1950s Hollywood. Tom Combs is an American ambulance driver who stays on in the war's aftermath to work for a priest, collecting the bones of dead soldiers from the battlefields of Verdun. He falls in love with Sarah Hagen, a fellow American, but she has come to France looking for news of her "missing, believed dead" husband. Sarah goes off in search of information, and Tom takes a job as a journalist in Paris. They meet again in Bologna in 1922, when a soldier creates a sensation after showing up in a hospital there with no recollection of who he is. Sarah believes the mysterious soldier is her husband, though others have reason to believe otherwise. Years later, Tom, working in Hollywood, comes across Paul, a fellow journalist from those heady days in Italy, and, reliving their unresolved past, they discover each entertains a different version of the truth. Dybek is a master at creating an atmosphere of war, of decadence amid the rubble, and at dipping in and out of history, teasing the reader with beguiling clues concerning the secrets each character harbors about the amnesiac. Dybek's novel is a complex tale of memory, choice, and the sacrifices one sometimes makes by doing the right thing.