This novel exposes family tensions of expectation and obligation, and is an accessible parallel to ‘The Ambassadors’ by Henry James. It charts the decisions made by Beatrice, a bored middle-aged teacher, dispatched to bohemian Paris to persuade a wilful nephew to return home to America. I was captivated by the information she uncovers, and how she attempts to influence family members, whilst in turn trying to avoid being manipulated by others.
The nettling, the bickering, the ingrained impatient intimacy (Bea could hardly tell one from the other) went back and forth between them, while Lili sat gazing at the drenched potato in her dish like an augur reading a fate. She seemed as distant from these American offspring as that ebony cabinet in the Louvre, with all its little hidden compartments. Lili herself was obscurely recessed and cranied - and was it collusion, or else some mystical tie between them, that compelled the brother to lash out a charge as biting as his sister's? Interrogation at headquarters.