The Lost Prince

Selden Edwards. Dutton, $26.95 (400p) ISBN 978-0-525-95294-7
Edwards’s sprawling second novel, it turns out, is no less a puzzle than his bestselling The Little Book, and follows on its heels in time, as Weezie Putnam returns from fin-de-siècle Vienna with a new name, Eleanor Burden, and a leather-bound journal that reveals “forthcoming events well into the twentieth century,” handwritten instructions that she believes will determine her destiny. This mysterious “Vienna journal” outlines a series of actions for Eleanor to take, throughout her life, that will make her not only wealthy but a crucial silent playmaker in world history, influencing the likes of Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and William James, all while maintaining the facade of a Boston socialite and devoted wife. One of her most significant contributions involves financially backing a conference to bring Freud to the U.S. with the help of her godfather, William James. But Eleanor’s personal triumph is securing a teaching position in Boston for a young Austrian named Arnauld Esterhazy, who becomes a mentor to her young son. But when Arnauld, “swept up in the fervor” of WWI, disappears from her life (breaking with the journal’s predictions), Eleanor’s unwavering faith in the journal is shaken, and she heads to war-ravaged Europe just days after the armistice in a desperate search for Arnauld among the makeshift hospitals that house so many men destroyed by the war. Once again, Edwards has a good time connecting historical events and philosophical ideas, and also connecting this book to his first, though many of those threads remain loose until late in the narrative, and parts of the book feel verbose. But Edwards’s bird’s-eye view of the details of this momentous age makes this companion piece as much fun as his debut. (Aug. 16)
Reviewed on: 06/18/2012
Release date: 08/16/2012
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