A disillusioned writer travels to the tropics in search of inspiration in Blanc’s emotionally astute debut novel.
Cristobal Porter is a British writer whose work is in decline. With each novel garnering less critical acclaim than the last, the author spends more time looking out of windows than he does writing. Badgered by his publisher and tormented by a difficult first relationship following the death of his wife, he retreats to an unnamed island in the tropics, where civil unrest lurks beneath the surface of everyday life. On his arrival, Porter uneasily slips into society following his introduction to the slick yet lascivious American diplomat, Jack Kaplan. Kaplan’s wife, the enigmatic Ana, is a patron of the arts, and Porter finds himself lingering at the edge of her cocktail party, staring at the backs of artists and well-heeled expats. While Kaplan dismisses the art scene, Ana finds a kindred spirit in Porter, and a bond tentatively forms between them. Porter goes about his book research but is almost immediately encumbered by the unannounced arrival of Nadia, his dangerously seductive young mistress. As his yearning for Ana grows stronger, Porter recognizes a growing intimacy between Nadia and Kaplan. When Ana finally learns of her husband’s affair, she draws Porter closer, but a tragic secret from her past rocks their budding relationship. As the plot unfolds, the whispers of uprising grow louder. Blanc is supremely sensitive to the trials and tribulations of the creative process; he writes with the wisdom of an established author grown weary of the literary scene. Some readers may consider the depiction of an emotionally disheveled yet unconventionally dashing novelist to be somewhat clichéd, but that thought is far outweighed by Blanc’s brilliantly detailed study of human connections and disconnections, in which even the most indiscernible movements of body, mind and heart are painstakingly recognized and charted.
A masterfully written exploration of the beauty and cruelty of love, as sharp as it is sensual.