Gustav Perle grows up in a small town in Switzerland where the horrors of the Second World War seem distant. He adores his mother, but she treats him with bitter severity, disapproving especially of his intense friendship with Anton, the Jewish boy at school. A gifted pianist, Anton is tortured by stage fright; only in secret games with Gustav does his imagination thrive.
But Gustav is taught that he must develop a hard shell, 'like a coconut', to protect the softness inside - just like the hard shell perfected by his country to protect its neutrality. But despite this hard shell, nothing in Gustav's life can be called neutral. Older and increasingly curious about his absent father, Gustav discovers the traces of an erotic love affair - traces which still glow white-hot even now.
Fierce, astringent, profoundly tender and spanning the 20th century, Rose Tremain's beautifully orchestrated novel explores the big themes of betrayal and the struggle for happiness and, above all, the passionate love of a childhood friendship as it is tested over a lifetime.
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An outstanding tale of love,friendship & betrayal.
Love, friendship, betrayal.
There wasn't one character I disliked in this story but Gustav was the stand-out one for me. From childhood to the last he was true to himself and steadfast in his love and friendship for his boyhood friend Anton and the latter's family.
Definitely, yes! I managed to listen to it in four or five big chunks but each time I had to turn it off I couldn't wait to get back to the story.
This is one of my favourite audiobooks of 2016. Rose Tremain writes with such style and empathy for her characters, which results (for me) in total immersion in the story. The plot is both heart-breaking and heart-warming and the cast of characters are well fleshed-out. Every sentence adds to the truth and charm of the story. The final sentence is fantastic IMHO. Some readers may find the final chapter a little sentimental/cloying, perhaps, but I found it immensely satisfying. I always love a story where the plotlines are neatly tied up!