by Katharine Weber
Too cleverly titled for its own good, this first novel—about, among other things, perception versus reality—is maddeningly fuzzy around the edges. An unexplained fellowship lands Manhattan photographer Harriet Rose, 26, in Geneva, where she spends a month mostly hanging out with and fretting about her friend Anne Gordon.
In long, unsent letters to Benedict, her boyfriend back home, Harriet laments that Anne has metamorphosed into “something far beyond [the] old queerly tentative self.” But the charming Anne of old is never clearly drawn, nor is her miserable present-day affair with a 60ish, married concentration-camp survivor.
Weber’s writing is intelligent, her prose admirably spare, and she manages to conjure an intriguing atmosphere. But her players never rise above their personas—the eccentric Harriet and the grounded Benedict as the complementary yin-yang lovers, Anne and Victor as the conflicted May-December couple.
The author tries to fill in the blanks by taking us back to Harriet’s childhood and the circumstances that compel her to rescue Anne; Weber also explains the complex source of Anne’s despair—too deep for Harriet to imagine or correct. But these devices, as well as the multiple references to mirrors and reflections, fail to flesh out a cast of characters that remains too distant to care much about. (Crown, $23)