A New York Times Notable Book 2016
An October Indie Next List “Great Reads” Pick
After the death of her beloved husband, Katrin, a literary biographer, picks her way through a trove of his letters and postcards, slowly piecing together the entirety of his life. Surprised by an unlikely chapter in his past that was never revealed during their marriage, Katrin sets off on a heartbreaking journey to discover the man she never fully knew.
Constantine (In Another Country) is known mainly for his poetry and short stories, and in this novel, his virtuosity with language and insight into character remain at the fore. After Eric's death, his wife, Katrin, attempts to reconcile his absence in the best way she knows; since she is a historical biographer, she turns Eric into her subject and attempts to document his life. The exotic figure of Monique, a Parisienne who unexpectedly arrives at his funeral, is the catalyst for Katrin's narrative. Digging through 50-year-old letters and piecing together what she can from anecdotes told by Eric's relatives and oldest friends, Katrin tries to re-create Eric before she knew him, as a young man at the beginning of his life. As her project progresses and her obsession increases, Katrin fears that she is re-creating not only her husband's first love affair but also his one great love. At times, the clarity and detail with which some stories are related so many years later strains credulity, but Constantine's analysis of character is breathtaking, and his prose is eloquent and moving. The novel is a truthful account of both the physical pain and the mental anguish of grief, and yet the journey remains a hopeful one.
The Life Writer
A decent book, wonderfully poetic and uplifting though the story was a bit unbelievable.
My favorite character was the doctor as she seemed to be most realistic. I didn't particularly like the main character. I thought she was too hard on herself but also self consumed.