A chance meeting in Paris sends two Americans into a relationship that forces them both to consider how well they know themselves and those around them in D’Agincourt’s (All Most, 2015, etc.) latest novel.
Jacob Printz, apparently in his early 40s, is a political campaign manager who can talk his way out of anything. But after his sister, Catherine, dies, he drops the various strands of his life and flies to Paris, with no plans other than to escape grief. Greta Hatler, 12 years Jacob’s junior, is similarly aimless; during a semester studying art history in Florence, Greta falls in love with her Italian lecturer, Tomasso. But now the semester is over, Greta is in Paris, and all she has is Tomasso’s ring and vague guilt. Tomasso remains a mystery for much of the novel as Greta attempts to piece together her affair and reconcile her memories; the last thing that she recalls about Tomasso is that he may be dying. In Paris, Jacob and Greta are thrown together not by romantic attraction but by twists of fate. Greta loses the ring, and Jacob returns it to her. But the cafe to which they retreat almost becomes the target of a suicide bomber. This layer of danger brings the two characters closer as they confront their fears and grief. D’Agincourt offers a quiet novel about trauma, memory, and how well one can understand another person. She often compares people and artworks, showing how both can be the subjects of speculation and interpretation. At one point, she describes how Greta, seeking to understand Tomasso, imagines his childhood: “He must have been precocious…rambunctious on the playground, needing to be the leader.” But then Tomasso tells her how wrong her imaginings are. Via third-person narration, D’Agincourt effectively steps into the heads of both Jacob and Greta, seamlessly integrating their perspectives and acute senses of loneliness. Despite their desire to connect, the characters lack the ability to adequately communicate their feelings. However, their flaws also give them complex interior lives that propel the novel forward.
An introspective novel that reveals the depths of human connection and the struggle to overcome loneliness and trauma.