Ward Just writes Washington and he writes Chicago, which is what attracted me to him in the first place. Forgetfullness, however, is set mainly in rural France. And that wasn’t the only departure.
We know from the summary that the hero’s wife is murdered after a fall on the mountain near his home in the Pyrenees. So when the novel opens and it is her point of view, it is just painful. She is all helpless and freezing to death and going through the “is he going to get here in time to save me”. I was reminded of that part in The English Patient when Katharine lay dying in the cave and the candle goes out. I thought that must be the most terrifying thing ever – totally helpless and then left in the dark. Then I thought, “No. When she lost consciousness, she was still convinced that he was coming. She didn’t know a thing when she died.” Florette, the wife, didn’t feel a thing at the end.
But this isn’t the usual murder mystery because Thomas, our hero, has some childhood chums in the CIA. Bad guys are caught and Thomas, in his grief, is faced with an interesting series of decisions regarding whether to face her killers and whether to attempt some kind of revenge. There are continuing references to the post 9/11 American psyche – which the expatriate Thomas doesn’t have. The title “Forgetfullness” runs a parallel to the concept of “forgiveness”.
I rather thought there was going to be some major climactic thing at the end. Not so much. I guess I have been reading too much McEwan lately. The final scenes are rather quiet and more cerebral. I liked it.