The story of the once-successful novelist trapped in the throes of writer’s block, personal woes and emotional contemplation is a favorite of many novelists, from Stephen King to Michael Chabon, but lesser versions of the tale often veer into the realm of plodding semi-autobiographical navel-gazing and serve the writer more than the book itself. With her latest novel, Tatiana de Rosnay not only avoids the pitfalls of the struggling-novelist story, but also obliterates them with a lush, beautifully rendered saga layered with secrets, scandal and, yes, an exploration of what it means to be a writer who’s terrified of having nothing left to say.
When Nicolas Duhamel was 24, he made a discovery that shook everything he knew about his family. This shocking revelation inspired a novel that rapidly became an international bestseller. A few years later, Nicolas is a wealthy author with a hit film based on his book and throngs of adoring fans, but the next novel, the one he’s been promising his agent, isn’t coming. Hoping to revitalize his creativity, Nicolas takes his girlfriend to an exclusive coastal resort in Italy, but what he finds there is far from the peace he was hoping for. As his personal life rapidly changes, the old secrets begin to haunt him again, and Nicolas realizes that if he hopes to rediscover that creative spark, he must contend not only with a frightening new future, but also with an increasingly haunted past.
By jumping between past and present tense to tell the dual stories of Nicolas pre- and post-fame, de Rosnay tells us right away that this novel is a meditation on time, legacy, memory and what the stories of our youth do to us when we’re older, but The Other Story is much more than a saga of past and future. By showing us the world through Nicolas’ eyes, de Rosnay is able to give us portraits, both of a deeply flawed man and the world around him through the perceptive lens of a storyteller. Throw in a remarkably complex cast of supporting characters, a series of juicy new developments in Nicolas’ life and always engaging dialogue, and you’ve got a brilliant combination of page-turner and character study.