Sunday, February 4, 2018
Book Review: "In Another Country, and Besides" by Maxwell Jacobs
Harry Hoffman is an English writer living in Europe sometime after World War II. One night in Venice he witnesses a shocking scene in the streets, and he makes a split-second decision which haunts him afterward. Trying to recover from that moment, he stumbles into a bar, where he catches the eye of a bewitching woman.
When he finally connects with this woman, Cleo, he is immediately drawn to her. They begin a flirtation, with the promise of more. For Harry, whose psyche is waited down by past sorrows, Cleo is the distraction and the pleasure he has been seeking. Against the backdrop of Venice's Carnival, he hopes that their relationship can proceed further, but he discovers that Cleo isn't immune to the charms of men other than him.
Distraught and feeling at his wits' end, Harry travels to Lake Como with a young woman he has just met. Again, Harry finds himself alone at a time when he expected companionship, and his feelings are a jumble of anger, loneliness, jealousy, and rehashing past sorrows and regret. When an unexpected act of violence leaves him reeling, so he flees for home in Zurich, only to run into Cleo again.
It turns out that Cleo isn't without her secrets or problems, either, and drama seems to follow her wherever she goes. But despite her past actions and the potential for danger, Harry can't keep away from her. Yet jealousy, fear, uncertainty, and suspicion complicate things.
And that's when the book starts to take an unexpected turn. Harry is a far more complicated character than you first assume, and you're not sure if the story he is telling is accurate. What secrets has he been hiding? What will become of his relationship with Cleo?
I'm being purposely vague in my plot description because the story takes a lot of twists and turns. Maxwell Jacobs definitely knows how to keep the suspense growing, as you wonder just what will happen next. It's far more complicated a story than a writer struggling with his next book and dealing with loneliness, that's for sure!
Jacobs is a very talented storyteller, and he keeps you wanting more. I will say that the book was a lot darker than I expected, and I'm not really sure if the assumptions I made about Harry's character were correct, because I felt the story was a bit vague on the details of his past, with only slight allusions made that you might miss.
This was a fascinating character study and a compelling look at the darkness of one man. I hope it finds an audience, because Jacobs is a really talented writer.
NetGalley and Morgan James provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!