“The Verdun Affair”, Love and Loss in WWI

Posted by Speakeasy News > Wednesday 17 October 2018 > What's On

We asked several teachers and authors who attended Festival America book festival in Vincennes in September to give us their favourite picks amongst the authors and books they encountered.

Cécile Sempéré-Brun, who teaches at Lycée Raynouard, Brignoles (83), recommends:

The Verdun Affair, by Nick Dybeck

A novel about love and loss, forgetting and remembering.

Reading A Verdun Affair is like travelling through space and time. The novel is set immediately after WWI, in France and Italy, as well as against the more glamorous background of 1950s Los Angeles. As the story unfolds it goes back and forth between those two periods, those three locations. The reader gets to know more about Tom, the narrator and a former WWI ambulance driver who now collects bones from the battlefield in Verdun. There he meets a beautiful fellow American woman, Sarah, with whom he falls in love. But Sarah is still looking for her missing husband… Could he be that mysterious shell-shocked, tongue-tied, amnesiac soldier living in an asylum in Bologna, Italy?

This novel is a complex yet beautiful story about love and loss, about the need to forget as opposed to the necessity to remember, about lies told and truth withheld. It also poses a universal question: can you remain whole when you refuse to remember your past?

About the author: Nick Dybeck teaches Creative Writing in Fiction at Oregon State University. He is also the author of short stories and another novel, When Captain Flint Was Still a Good Man. Dybeck says he decided to write The Verdun Affair after hearing a radio programme about the collection of bones in a Verdun ossuary in the 1920s.

You can read or hear an extract, and access a reading group guide, on the publisher’s site.

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