A trip to France leads two friends to ruin in Dunlop’s lush debut.
After her affair with her married professor ends with his resignation, Brooke escapes the ensuing scandal by signing up for a study-abroad program in Nantes, France. Her introduction to the French language is delicious—“The phones in America ring and the phones here in France drin; the dogs there say ‘woof,’ the dogs here say ‘abois’ ”—but she’s largely consumed by a complicated relationship with her classmate Sophie. Rich and beautiful Sophie might seem less superficial if others could see past her looks, but Sophie's vague sadness doesn’t elicit much sympathy from her less fortunate friend. Brooke compares herself to Sophie constantly, and their friendship is put to the real test when the two girls meet a young photographer named Alex who charms Brooke by saying he’s bored with models. “Sexy isn’t a question of looks,” Alex tells her. “It’s a question of mastery of oneself, mastery of one’s instruments,” and his appeal from that point forward is undeniable. After the two women spend a few sun-kissed days and wine-soaked nights at Alex’s familial home in stunning Cap Ferrat, Brooke may be in love with him—and Alex may be in love with them both. Sexual tension, beautiful scenery, long talks about art, and fantasies about staying in France forever brighten the moody atmosphere and sustain the friendship for a while. But if Brooke takes her crush a little too seriously, Sophie doesn’t take it seriously enough, and a rift grows between the two friends that will have life-altering consequences for them both. Whether the surprise ending is real or imagined, it fades away like the afterglow of a perfect summer night.
A haunting story of betrayal within a beautiful portrait of youth.