A lifelong friendship turns more complicated and murky when the disappearance of one of the women leads to unwelcome discoveries and a reconfiguration.
Passions supposedly run high in Brackenbury’s (The Lost Love Letters of Henri Fournier, 2018, etc.) latest novel—there's the sexual intensity of a long love affair; the decision to risk everything for a career in filmmaking; jealousy and competitiveness between women friends. And yet little of this fire ignites the pages of what is a steady, cool, thoughtful novel charting the relationship between Hannah Farrell and Claudia Prescott across the decades. The pair bonded at an English boarding school and remained BFFs through the college years at Cambridge and beyond. A trip to Europe during which they met Alexandre, an attractive student, did set up some tension between the women, but Hannah, the more mysterious of the two, solved the dilemma by walking away, leaving Alexandre to Claudia. Despite other occasional disappearances later in life, Hannah opted for a traditional track as wife to Philip and mother to twins. Claudia, however, struck out for California to try her hand as a moviemaker before eventually settling as a teacher of film studies at a college in Virginia, with Alexandre as her distant, occasional, yet lifelong lover. The two women stayed in touch and visited annually, but now Hannah has failed to show up as expected at the family holiday home, and Claudia is summoned by Philip. When Hannah does reappear, the not entirely unpredictable pieces of the story fall neatly into place. A final episode imports its own inherent intensity, yet it is in the small gestures that the story achieves some resonance.
The author’s delicate touch captures the head if not the heart of this meditation on loyalty, friendship, and the geometry of human interconnection.