An artfully crafted story of two marriages from Leavitt (English: Univ. of Florida), whose credits include Family Dancing (1984) and The Indian Clerk (2007), both finalists for the PEN/Faulkner Award.
The book is set in Lisbon, Portugal, among the refugees, after the outbreak of World War II. Pete and Julia Winters meet Iris and Edward Freleng, and their little dog, Daisy, when Edward steps on Pete’s glasses. They are sitting outside the Café Suiça, a place packed with foreigners hoping to escape Europe. While the Winters and the Frelengs have this problem solved—they will travel on the SS Manhattan, an American ship commandeered for the purpose—they have their own problems, and little more than a week to live through them. The Winters have been living in Paris for 17 years. Julia is temperamental, high-strung; she has sworn never to return to New York. The Frelengs are independently wealthy, for many years itinerant; they have for some time been settled in the Gironde, passing the days writing Xavier Legrand mysteries. Edward is unstable; Iris is manipulative; Julia is brittle; and Pete, the narrator, is conflicted—a good man who does a bad thing for the right reasons. Along the way, there is an affair and a fatal tragedy.
Very fine work.