The Verdun Affair

Scribner. Jun. 2018. 320p. ISBN 9781501191763. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781501191787. F
OrangeReviewStarAward-winning novelist Dybek (When Captain Flint Was Still a Good Man) centers his second novel on the love story between two Americans who meet in France just after World War I. Sarah is searching for her husband, who vanished from his division during the war. Tom is a former ambulance driver now involved in the effort to gather bones from the battlefield at Verdun (one of the longest and most costly battles in human history) to be placed in the Douaumont Ossuary, a memorial to the fallen soldiers. However, an amnesiac soldier, who may or may not be Sarah's lost husband, casts a shadow on their relationship. The story moves from a Europe still recovering after the devastation of the previous war, as the violent appearance of the fascist Blackshirts in Italy presages the next, to 1950s Los Angeles. Beautifully written, romantic, and atmospheric, the novel has a lyrical pace that evokes an earlier style of writing and does not as much aim to keep readers turning the pages as it does to draw them into a different time, full of melancholy and unspoken emotions.
VERDICT With the understated style of Ernest Hemingway, this novel will appeal to lovers of classic wartime romances (A Farewell to Arms) as well as fans of literary historical fiction by authors such as Paula McLain.
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