A novel that artfully mixes memory and desire as a World War II veteran accesses painful memories of a wartime romance.
In 1980, Dr. Robert Hendricks is an established psychiatrist in London with an impressive book, The Chosen Few, to his credit. One day he gets a letter from a 93-year-old therapist, Dr. Alexander Pereira, who admires his book and also has some information about his father, who died during the first world war, when Hendricks was 2. Hendricks takes Pereira up on his invitation to visit him at his home on a small island off the coast of France. Pereira had briefly known Hendricks’ father during the war and has a few photographs and artifacts he wishes to share—and he also suspects that Hendricks has repressed some memories about his own war experience, which included the landing at Anzio in 1944 and a short but tempestuous relationship with Luisa, the beautiful daughter of a Genoese businessman. As one might expect, Hendricks tells much of the novel through flashbacks to his war experience, and few authors write about war as well or as vividly as Faulks. We meet a range of officers and other soldiers whom Faulks deftly avoids stereotyping—they’re presented with all their flaws and gestures toward heroism and cowardice. Hendricks himself received a war wound, and with Pereira’s encouragement he finally remembers how—and it’s not a moment of heroism. At the center of Hendricks’ memories is Luisa. His tangled relationship with her shapes the rest of Hendricks’ life and gives him deeper understanding of his theories about love.
An absorbing look at the intimate connection between love, war, and memory.