Ken, a curmudgeonly writer becomes intrigued by the family who run the new local bakery. John Patterner met his wife Sabhiha while on a sabbatical in Europe. Together they ran in Chez Dom, a run down Tunisian café in the back streets of Paris, well off the tourist path. They are contented in their marriage but are destined to always be strangers to each other, both from different cultures and living in a third, communicating in French rather than their native languages. Sabiha yearns for a child. John feels himself being pulled back to Australia. Is there a remedy to strengthen their relationship?
First Impressions: I was instantly drawn into Alex Miller’s writing, more specifically Ken’s voice. Interestingly, I did not find Ken an engaging character at this point.
Highlights: There is much to love about this novel. The narrative frame is interesting as Sabiha’s story is told by her husband to Ken who then relates it to us. I did wonder if Ken’s inclusion was necessary as he was a rather innocuous character. However, much to my surprise, towards the end of the novel Ken’s true character emerges and I found him highly entertaining. MIller really made Vaugiraud in Paris come alive. I could just imagine walking the back streets and I had a strong sense of what Chez Dom would have been like. As an expat I could also relate to John Patterner’s moments of yearning for Australia that were not necessarily based on logical reasoning, and the small details he remembers from his childhood.
If I was an editor: It is just nitpicking but Sabiha’s longing for a baby perhaps did go on for a bit too long. I would have also liked more of the narrator’s story – I really liked Ken by the end!
Overall: So glad I read this. Such a lovely story.
Lovesong: 5 stars