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To love someone, need you know everything about them? When Alice and Joseph meet, they fall quickly into a tentative but serious relationship. Both are still young and hopeful of each other, but each brings with them an emotional burden. Alice's family is full of absences and Joseph harbours an unspeakable secret from his time in the army in Northern Ireland. When Alice's widowed grandfather begins to tell Joseph about his RAF experiences in 1950s Kenya, something still raw is tapped in Joseph; his reaction to the older man's unburdening of guilt is both unexpected and devastating for them all.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780099461777
ISBN-10: 0099461773
Format: Paperback
(197mm x 128mm x 20mm)
Pages: 336
Imprint: Vintage
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 4-Oct-2007
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Reviews

US Kirkus Review » Booker nominee Seiffert's third novel (Field Study, 2004, etc.) is spare, sometimes powerful and a bit disappointing.Brits Alice and Joseph (a nurse and a plasterer, respectively) fall in something like love, but both bring along baggage and great reticence, and the relationship flounders. Alice's father, absent all her life, has lately let wither the correspondence she began as a belated, indirect way of getting to know him; her beloved grandmother has died, and she's tending to her grieving grandfather. Joseph has a troubled past. After a string of youthful petty crimes, he became a soldier in Northern Ireland - and what happened there he refuses to reveal. His experiences have left him scarred and skittish. He warily circles Alice: engaging for a while, retreating, engaging, retreating. When Alice's grandfather, for whom Joseph is doing some home renovation, divulges details of his military career in Kenya - details that he, also laconic and guilt-ridden, has long kept to himself - Joseph shrinks from the revelation with a raw, impulsive violence that estranges him from Alice for good. Seiffert's setup is daringly low-key: minimal plot; an aggressively plain, fragmentary style; two protagonists defined in large part by their awkwardness and taciturnity. Seiffert's prose is subtle and precise, and in psychological complexity she rivals Margot Livesey. Despite some similarities of approach, however, this book doesn't offer the layered suspense of Livesey's work. In this novel about ships passing sadly in the night, the middle passage of 200 pages is impressive, but the beginning and the end of the journey are not. A partial misfire by a gifted writer. (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - Rachel Seiffert

The daughter of an Australian father and a German mother, Rachel Seiffert was born in Oxford and lives in London. She is the author the Booker-shortlisted novel The Dark Room and an acclaimed collection of short stories, Field Study. She was named one of Granta's 'Best of Young British' and one of 25 women writers to watch in the 'Orange Futures' promotion.

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