Published by University of Queensland Press on April 2013
Genres: Adult Fiction, Romance
Source: My copy
Amazon • Amazon UK • Book Depository
In a coastal village in Cork in 1969, a Russian painter and his Irish novelist wife write letters to one another as they try to come to terms with a fatal illness.
On Australia's west coast in 2011, a bookseller writes to her estranged partner in an attempt to understand what has happened to their relationship.
In Bournemouth in 1948, a retired English doctor writes to the love of his life, a German artist he lived with in Vienna during the 1930s.
The simple domestic lives of these three couples are set against conversations about intimacy, art, war and loss. Told in a series of unforgettable letters, this is a novel about love and what it means when it might be coming to an end.
“There’s somewhere, isn’t there, between the bones and the flesh – not quite the mind, not quite the soul, where we keep those feelings we can’t bear to have, but there we must keep them, because they make us who we are.”
As the title suggests, this novel consists of a collection of letters all dealing with some kind of loss. There are three main couples involved: In Cork (1969), a Russian painter and his novelist wife who must come to grips with a terminal illness; Perth in 2011 where a bookstore owner writes to her estranged partner trying to fathom what went wrong with their relationship; and Bournemouth in 1948 where a retired doctor writes to his partner who never made it through the war.
These three couples are all vaguely connected through art, war and parallel imagery. I found this to be quite a clever literary tool. It makes lives that seem so random suddenly seem part of some grand plan. All couples have memories involving the artist or artwork of Paul Klee. I also found the imagery of diving and of watches (time) to be quite effective.
Dreams are also of a great importance in the novel and are described vividly. I suppose when love is lost; dreams are sometimes all you have left.
The novel is beautifully written. It is soulful and sorrowful. As a reader you can feel the yearning in Walker’s words; the heartbreak over lost love. There is not really any plot at all – these are simply a collection of love letters. So I don’t think this will appeal to the general reading public.
One aspect I didn’t really enjoy was the graphic sex scene. Please let me state that I am by no means a prude, I appreciate that sometimes to go into great detail about lovemaking is necessary. It just seemed so out of place in this novel. There are these beautiful and lyrical descriptions of love then all of a sudden BANG! (excuse the pun) and we are into 50 Shades of Grey. I just didn’t think it fitted into the novel’s gentle themes.
– A beautifully written novel without much of a storyline.