Sarah Léon, trans from the French by John Cullen. Other Press, $15.95 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-59051-925-7
Léon’s staggering debut uses musical structure and allusion to explore friendship and secrecy between two gifted young men. Composer Hermin secludes himself for winters at an estate in the Bourbonnais mountains in France. Lenny, a former friend and piano prodigy who disappeared suddenly a decade before, appears at his door. The two slowly and awkwardly get reacquainted, and, from this point, Léon tells the history of their friendship in paragraphs that alternate between the present and 10 years prior. Hermin is a conservatory student in Paris when he meets teenaged Lenny, a foreigner with impressive raw talent but a strained life caring for his seriously ill aunt. Hermin provides lessons and space for Lenny to practice and eventually invites him to move into his apartment. The plot centers on Hermin’s failure even years later to understand Lenny’s peevish reactions to Hermin spending time with other friends and questions surrounding Lenny’s abrupt retirement from performance shortly before arriving. The men’s interactions frequently mirror citations from Schubert’s songs, especially as the reasons for Lenny’s reappearance become clearer. Léon’s innovative blending of events across time and her delicate emotional precision make for a bewitching, immersive experience. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 10/22/2018
Release date: 01/08/2019
Genre: Fiction
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