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The Verdun Affair
by Nick Dybek


Overview - Across a continent still reeling from World War I, a "ravishingly beautiful" (Paula McClain) story about a love affair between two Americans and the lie that changes everything.

France, 1921--Tom, a young American orphaned in World War I, is working at an ossuary in Verdun, helping priests comfort families seeking answers about their loved ones.  Read more...


 
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More About The Verdun Affair by Nick Dybek
 
 
 
Overview
Across a continent still reeling from World War I, a "ravishingly beautiful" (Paula McClain) story about a love affair between two Americans and the lie that changes everything.

France, 1921--Tom, a young American orphaned in World War I, is working at an ossuary in Verdun, helping priests comfort families seeking answers about their loved ones. But nothing in his past--not his rough-and-tumble Chicago childhood nor his experiences driving ambulances across French battlefields--can prepare Tom for the arrival of Sarah Hagen. From the moment he sees her, a young woman in a blue dress desperate for news of her missing husband, he knows he will help her in any way he can.

As their affair takes them across a fractured Europe, Tom and Sarah reckon with the ways extraordinary circumstances impact the lives of ordinary people. They eventually part but when news of an amnesiac soldier in Naples reaches Tom in Paris, he sets off, only to find Sarah there, hopeful as ever, along with an Austrian journalist named Paul who has his own agenda. Years later, a chance encounter with Paul forces Tom, now a screenwriter in Hollywood, to confront his past--and the woman he's never been able to forget.

A page-turning, vividly imagined, and deeply romantic novel about love and identity, truth and consequences, The Verdun Affair is a "literary romance... that] unravels a love triangle and its players' secrets" (Los Angeles Times). It will transport you to another place and time while asking the question: Who are you in a world you no longer recognize?

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9781501191763
  • ISBN-10: 1501191764
  • Publisher: Scribner Book Company
  • Publish Date: June 2018
  • Page Count: 304
  • Dimensions: 9.3 x 6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Historical - General
Books > Fiction > War & Military
Books > Fiction > Literary

 
BookPage Reviews

Love and memory, marred by war

Nick Dybek’s haunting, vividly cinematic tale is set in rural France after the horrific World War I battle at Verdun, where almost a million men died. Each of Dybek’s three central characters has a tie to the site of the carnage—beginning in 1921 with Tom Combs, a young American ambulance driver working for the church, collecting remains from the battlefield to be placed in a huge ossuary, which will eventually hold the remnants of 130,000 French and German soldiers. Tom diligently carries out his macabre assignment, even as he ponders how to tell those searching for their missing loved ones that “the shelling was so incessant during the battle that a man’s remains might be buried and unburied and blown a mile into the distance and buried again?” Hundreds of bones are found every day, “mangled and unmatched.”

It is there that Sarah Hagen comes, searching for her husband, Lee, who was in the American Field Service and went missing in 1918. Perhaps to ease her evident stress from a long and fruitless search, Tom tells her he met Lee in Aix-les-Bains while Lee was on leave. Tom and Sarah begin an intense yet brief affair—she is immersed in grief, and Tom feels guilty over his lie. She leaves Verdun to continue her quest, and Tom moves on to a job as a journalist in Paris.

Dybek’s story then moves from Verdun to Bologna, where a year later Sarah and Tom meet again—both drawn by reports of an amnesiac patient in a mental hospital who may be Lee Hagen. There they encounter Dybek’s third enigmatic character, Paul Weyerhauser, an Austrian journalist who has his own wartime backstory—and a reason for questioning the amnesiac.

The narrative leaps forward to Los Angeles in the 1950s, where Tom and Paul meet unexpectedly at a funeral. Each has his memories of Sarah and their time together in Italy—memories viewed through different lenses and clouded by time. Dybek’s poignant tale of the harsh realities of war juxtaposed with a dreamlike love story will linger with readers in the same manner as Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient.

 

This article was originally published in the June 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 
BAM Customer Reviews