An elegiac second novel from Green (Cassandra’s Disk, 2002) portrays an older woman living in seclusion prompted to remember the loves and betrayals of her early years.
As the story begins in February 1964, Anna Larssen Galland is spending her second winter on a remote island off the coast of Norway. She moved there from France, where her husband Vincent had drowned under suspicious circumstances in 1958, telling no one where she was except her New York publisher, whose translation commissions enable her to support herself. Was it simply grief that drove her to this isolated retreat? Yes and no. Long before Vincent’s death, Anna had seen enough tragedy to fill an opera. Born and raised in Norway, she moved to Paris with her French mother after her father died. There, she met and fell in love with Vincent, a Czech Communist active in the Resistance who was later captured by the Nazis and reported dead. The devastated Anna was consoled by a mysterious American named Harry Quinn, but not long after they became lovers, she learned that Vincent was alive. She left Harry to nurse her husband back to health and smuggle him out of Europe. In Lisbon, unable to obtain visas to emigrate, they were advised that their only hope was a black marketer named . . . Harry Quinn! He helped them make their way to New York, where Vincent became a spokesman for the Free French government and, after the Liberation, received a hero’s welcome in Paris. Anna recalls these events on her island, prodded by the arrival from her publisher of a trashy American “novel” that relates the most intimate details of her marriage. Is this blackmail, or just poor taste? In order to understand the mystery of her husband’s death, Anna must sort out the greater mysteries of his life—and hers.
The coincidences become a bit much, but this high-lit remake of Casablanca is quite readable and not nearly as contrived as it sounds.