A marriage unravels along with the U.S. mission in Lebanon in 1983, in this debut from a former CNN correspondent.
Lara McCauley arrives in Beirut in January 1983 with her husband, Mac, the new bureau chief for a major U.S. magazine. Narrator Lara, 29, is still the naïve wifey who’ll do anything to please, though she suspects Mac may have cheated on her. He’s a classic chauvinist pig who humiliates Lara in public and wastes no time starting an affair with Nadia, his Lebanese translator, when he’s not drinking with his “tribe,” his fellow journalists at the Commodore Hotel. Lara finds a friend in Thomas, the half-Polish, half-Brazilian freelancer who’s an old Beirut hand with an unrivaled network of sources. Gentle, erudite Thomas is rumored (correctly) to be gay, but Robertson fails to bring him into focus. Their innocent friendship enrages Mac, who rapes Lara (“forced bonding” is her phrase) while reeking of Nadia’s scent. As her situation worsens, so does that of the American mission. The embassy is blown up in April, and the climax will come in October, when 241 Marines are killed at their airport camp. Robertson’s historical framework is accurate enough, but she lacks the skills to dovetail Lara’s story credibly with Lebanon’s byzantine politics and feuding warlords. It doesn’t help that Lara makes one dumb mistake after another, first having (or attempting to have) sex with Thomas, then having an indiscreet lunch with him at a mountain hotel, and finally, panicking over Mac’s likely reaction, crossing the super-dangerous Green Line on foot, despite Thomas’s entreaties. When Thomas disappears, Lara suspects Mac has had him killed, and is overwhelmed with guilt that she may have unwittingly betrayed him. She takes a spectacular revenge on her husband, Mrs. Mouse becoming Lady Macbeth; but then, as she says, like Reagan back in Washington, she was only doing what she believed to be right.
A harebrained melodrama.