Through a series of unlikely coincidences, the octogenarian in Akin finds his back-to-his-roots vacation in Nice, France, transformed as he needs to take along a newly-discovered great-nephew who grew up in a poor and violent neighborhood. The relationship between the two is wonderfully captured as the two struggle to understand each other across the divide of age and background.
The trip is not just for fun, but to discover the mysterious activities of the elder’s mother during WWII, and this is where the story was not so enjoyable for me, as it felt over-rehearsed and researched. But I did love the many well-observed moments between the two protagonists.
Strangers tells the story of a lonely retired bank manager who needs to witness the death of a similarly isolated cousin and experience a bizarre relationship with a woman who seems to have absolutely no guilt in sponging off him to finally go forth, take some risks, and live a little. The author takes great pains to describe the many inhibitions, anxieties, and self-inflicted limitations of the hero (among which the belief that at his age he cannot find love, who knows why?) so the very slow pace of the story is filled with the reasons why he cannot move fast and the strange decisions he makes are always put in context. Nicely done.
And for once, all the French quotes are perfectly correct. Yeah!
A classic (originally published in 1969) and evocative of many other “goofy” novels to come, Travels with my Aunt follows an English retired bank manager and dahlia enthusiast through worldwide travels with his elderly aunt, or perhaps his biological mother, who has a sorted past, lovers of all ages, and little desire to abide by the law.
Although it’s impossible to believe all the coincidences and wild adventures in the book, Mr. Pulling proves to be a wonderful reading companion with his copious luggage, outdated courtesies, and belated longings for Miss Keene.
A perfect book for your next long flight.