Australian author Tranter makes her splendid debut with this novel about friendship, love, abuse and deceit.
Julia is part of a triangle that includes the man she adores, Ralph, and the beautiful, blond, ephemeral Ingrid. When Ingrid disappears in New York City, an apparent victim of the World Trade Center attacks, Ralph, who is ill and cannot travel, asks Julia to make the trip for him. He wants to know what happened to Ingrid, who was living in the city, studying at Columbia and married to Gil, a dark sort with a brilliant child named Fleur. Julia departs Australia for New York to begin her search for Ingrid with conflicting emotions. She soon discovers Gil had been physically abusing Ingrid, who at the same time was cherished by the moody, artistic Fleur. As Julia struggles to piece together Ingrid’s life abroad, her dearest relative, an aunt, becomes ill, forcing her to return home and confront her distant and slightly ditzy mother. Julia will return to the Big Apple, but tracing Ingrid will prove to be more difficult than she anticipated. As she finds pieces of the puzzle that comprised Ingrid’s life in New York, the truth becomes complicated. Tranter’s writing is as rich and luxurious as heavy, expensive brocade. The characters’ names and many aspects of the plot will remind readers of Henry James’ Portrait of a Lady. The story can at times be slow-moving and self-consciously literary, but it’s a goldmine of literary references, and finding them can be both fun and challenging.
A promising beginning to what will undoubtedly be a successful writing career.