Title: The Lovers
Author: Vendela Vida
Pages: 225 (I have an ARC, so page numbers in the final copy may be different)
Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge
First Sentence: "When half an hour had passed and there was still no sign of a white Renault, Yvonne began to fear she'd been scammed."
Summary (From back of book):
Yvonne, recently widowed and the mother of grown twins, returns to Datca, the coastal village in Turkey where she and her husband honeymooned twenty-eight years ago. She hopes to immerse herself in the warm sand and sea, and in memories of a better time in her life. But her plans are quickly complicated. Her Turkish landlord and his bold and intriguing wife have a curious marital agreement and are constant visitors to the home. And rather than being comforted by her memories, they begin to trouble her.
Overwhelmed by her past and her environment, Yvonne clings to her new-found friendship with Ahmet, a young Turkish boy who sells shells at the local beach. With the boy as her guide, Yvonne gains new insight into her own grown children and begins to enjoy the shimmering sea and the relaxed pace of the Turkish coast. But a terrible accident throws her life into chaos, and her own sense of self into turmoil.
With the crystalline voice, mordant humor, and depth of feeling for which her work has been so celebrated, Vendela Vida has crafted another unforgettable heroine in a beautiful and mysterious landscape.
My Two Cents:
I have never read any of Vida's other work, but I think after this experience I will try to track some down. I really enjoyed this book.
Several people who've reviewed this book on other sites have said the constant depressive feeling (Over Yvonne's husband's death, over the way her children act, over her surroundings, etc.) turned them off this book. However, I think it works well here. Yvonne's wounds are pretty fresh, and her husband's death was so sudden. Hoping to find some kind of healing, she returns to the site of her honeymoon, but instead of finding what she's looking for, she's constantly reminded of how things have changed and the absence of her husband.
Yvonne is a great main character. She's interesting enough to carry the whole novel, but she's relatable enough that most readers will find some way to identify with her. She's broken without being so down-in-the-dumps that she just sits on the couch all day. Instead, she does what most of us would have to do in her situation: Force herself to go out and do things in an unfamiliar country. She could have been a little more dynamic, but her reserve worked well for her situation.
Vida's writing is most evocative when she's describing the landscapes and customs of Turkey. She really helps bring this country, a place I've wanted to visit for a long time, alive, and it adds so much to the story. She's also good at creating memorable characters -- Even though we only met the owner of the house in which Yvonne stays briefly, we hear so many interesting details from other characters that we are left with the impression of a very ... ummm ... interesting man.
This is a great story of a woman in mourning trying to find out who she is without her husband in the picture. If you like stories like this, I would recommend giving this book a go.