This is a novel that on the surface is about an unnamed narrator and lovers Dean and Ann-Marie.
Dean is a Yale school dropout and comes to France for what is supposed to be a short holiday. The narrator meets him at a party in Paris and lets him stay in the narrator's borrowed house in the French countryside (The real France). It is in the village of Atun that Dean meets Anne-Marie and begins an affair which increases in volume and passion until his departure from France.
We can also get a sense of the narrator thru his retelling of Dean and Anne-Marie affair. The narrator is seemly impotent and thus cast his desires onto the couple. Even though there is few direct evidence of the narrator by paying attention to the subtle retelling of the story we can glean a second story underneath.
Beneath that story is stories about love and sex and classism among other things. As this story was published in the 60’s and retains reverences to subtle racism this story is easily dated but the language which is at the heart of this book remains as beautiful as ever.
Salter is known for his artful writing and how to best craft a sentence. This book is full of evidence of that. Not one word wasted and the prose is precise and inflicts the exact sort of mood it portrays.
One gets a sense that in the retelling it has lost some of its glamour or novelty. There seems to be a veneer of dullness that is spread across the words. Like a knife that has lost it sharpness and is now only a dull blade.
Many people love this book for the telling of a principle story but if you ask me this fails to give it justice. There are so many more gems that this book has to offer than just a story about love and sex.
My one complaint about this book is that I wanted to know more about the narrator. I have read that many people feel this way but it is perhaps one of Salter greatest achievements that he is able to disregard this and still have a book that offers so much and does not distract from the story.