"Weisman has written a tragedy of rare power and richness...If lately you've been shuffling through too many novels that feel a little unambitious, vaguely sentimental, even adolescent, NO. Read more...
"Weisman has written a tragedy of rare power and richness...If lately you've been shuffling through too many novels that feel a little unambitious, vaguely sentimental, even adolescent, NO. 4 IMPERIAL LANE could give your summer reading some real depth." -Ron Charles, "The Washington Post "
From post-punk Brighton to revolutionary Angola, an incredible coming-of-age story that stretches across nations and decades, reminding us what it really means to come home.
It's 1988 at the University of Sussex, where kids sport Mohawks and light up to the otherworldly sounds of the Cocteau Twins, as conversation drifts from structuralism to Thatcher to the bloody Labour Students. Hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, David Heller has taken a job as a live-in aide to current quadriplegic and former playboy, Hans Bromwell-in part to extend his stay studying abroad, but in truth, he's looking to escape his own family still paralyzed by the death of his younger sister ten years on.
When David moves into the Bromwell house, his life becomes quickly entwined with those of Hans, his alcoholic sister, Elizabeth, and her beautiful fatherless daughter, as they navigate their new role as fallen aristocracy. As David befriends the Bromwells, the details behind the family's staggering fall from grace are slowly revealed: How Elizabeth's love affair with a Portuguese physician carried the young English girl right into the bloody battlefields of colonial Africa, where an entire continent bellowed for independence, and a single event left a family broken forever.
A sweeping debut by a seasoned political reporter, written in prose as lush and evocative as it is deeply funny, NO. 4 IMPERIAL LANE artfully shifts through time, from the high politics of embassy backrooms and the bloody events of a ground war to the budding romance found in pot-filled dorm rooms, and those unforgettable moments when childhood gives way to becoming an adult.
Reminiscent of Nick Hornby and Alan Hollinghurst, here is a book about the intersection of damaged lives; a book that asks whether it is possible for an unexpected stranger to piece a family back together again.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-08-03
- Reviewer: Staff
Weisman, a New York Times economic policy reporter, successfully weaves a captivating story in his fiction debut. In 1988, David Heller, an affluent American college student on exchange at the University of Sussex to escape a home life consumed by grief, decides to extend his stay in order to spend more time with his British girlfriend. He takes a position in Brighton as a caregiver to keep his residency permit. Inside No. 4 Imperial Lane, David meets middle-aged Hans Bromwell, the quadriplegic he must care for; his sister, Elizabeth; and her beautiful teen daughter, Cristina. The Bromwells, children of the late Gordon Bromwell, a Tory member of parliament, live in the eccentric squalor of lapsed aristocracy; they make do through the sale of their remaining antiques. Elizabeth dreams of getting a job—it'd be her first—but her only education was from a tutor who knew nothing but Shakespeare. David finds himself drawn into the Bromwells' world. Through letters and stories, David learns of Elizabeth's marriage to a Portuguese military doctor and their life together in Africa in the waning, bloody days of the Portuguese empire. Weisman brings a reporter's sensibility to the chapters in Africa, but doesn't let it overshadow the storytelling, which has all the action and suspense of a good war story. The link between the third-person account of Elizabeth's time in Africa and David's first-person narrative in Brighton can feel disjointed at times, but Weisman imbues David with enough emotional heft to bridge these two stories about relationships, grief, and knowing how to return home. (Aug.)