Vendela Vida, also known as the wife of Dave Eggers, has written a book about Yvonne, the widow, who goes to Turkey to grieve and remember her late husband. Her destination is Datca, the place where decades before she spent her honeymoon. As Turkey is the ‘land where archaeologists came and were startled to find entire town as they once were’, she expects to find things exactly as she left them all those years ago, so she can re-enact the happy times of the early days of her marriage. Something, she convinced herself, that would help the mourning process which, for now, was going extremely slowly. Sadly, she arrives in a town that is barely a shadow of its former self. It fell into decay and its previous glory is another thing on the list of things Yvonne has to mourn.
The first half of the book is full of lengthy inner monologues and banal observations that we have to sit through while waiting for Yvonne’s grief to take on more shape and meaning. So we read things like:
“There was nothing sadder, Yvonne thought, than seeing an old man’s underwear.”
Really? How about clubbing baby seals?
“She walked around, enjoying the sound the sandals made on the tile floor. The sound of elegance, she thought. The sound of a woman preparing for a party.”
And so it goes, my friends, it’s like being stuck in a boring person’s head. Nonetheless, it reads smoothly, if only you are willing to overlook bizarre things like:
“She lifted her fingers to her own face, and only then did she know she had been crying.”
I have seen this in books a few times and it doesn’t cease to baffle me. Just how can you not know you are crying? Has this happened to anyone in real life?
Amidst this questionable writing we learn about Yvonne’s relationship with her two children and her late husband. We also witness her befriending an ex-wife of her temporary Turkish landlord and a Turkish boy who sells shells on the beach. One these two new found friends will serve as catalyst to a much needed breakthrough for Yvonne and the book itself. From then on the novel takes on a more surreal tone. It becomes deep, hot and stuffy. The emotions come across as more authentic and the writing, too, seems to be less cringe-worthy. The events gain momentum and lead up to a dramatic (if slightly far-fetched) finale.
I didn’t fall in love with The Lovers and this book and I should probably start seeing other people. However, I am certain that it will appeal to the fans of detailed introspection set in exotic lands; this, I hear, is Vida’s speciality.