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JETLAG by Quentin Clewes


by Quentin Clewes

Pub Date: June 15th, 1995
ISBN: 1-56886-008-0

 Childhood lost, family and a world gone missing are the themes of this minutely detailed, infinitely tragic first-and-last novel by Italian translator Annapaola Cancogni (Clewes was her pen name), who lived for many years in the US before her death in 1993. Born on a yacht in the mid-Atlantic, raised on the coast of France, the quietly desperate narrator looks seaward from her Maine cottage as a young woman, reckoning her losses and the mystery she will never solve. When she was 11, she was told by her mother, Anna (in a rare moment of lucidity and maternal interest), that she had a twin brother, of whom no one else had ever heard. Anna never explained what happened to the twin, but for the rest of her life, the narrator has searched for her sibling. Although her father was American, he was murdered when she was an infant, so her mother carried her to Sylla, her ancestral home in France. There, the narrator grew up, surrounded by nannies and tutors, with her pan- European extended family, German and Russian primarily but descended also from an 18th-century Italian painter at the court of France. Tragedy and madness have dogged this clan across generations, but Anna's own fragile mental state stems from her husband's violent death and her prior separation from her cousin Pyotr, her first love, with whom she broke in order to marry. After the narrator left to attend Harvard, partly in hope of finding her twin, life at Sylla took a turn for the worse: Pyotr stepped in front of a train, and Anna had to be institutionalized. In despair, the family sold Sylla and moved to America, but, unable to escape the shadows of tragedy, they remain miserable and distant from each other in their new home. Fog-shrouded and bleak, this is a closely watched unskeining of a family's fortunes, in which powerful echoes of Proust and other literary stylists reverberate. Complex, morose, and chilling.