DUNANT/MAPPING THE EDGE
When Anna decides to take an impromptu trip to Italy, she packs her bag, leaves her 6-year-old daughter, Lily, at home with close friends, and steps onto the plane. She's always been a woman of action, and her personal and professional lives have been filled to overflowing recently. So her friends Paul and Estella think nothing of the jaunt--it's a well-deserved break, a weekend for psychic refreshment, a brief step outside reality.
But a disappearance? When Anna fails to return, Paul and Estella make excuses, to themselves and to Lily. When the weekend stretches toward a week, the possibility of her permanent absence becomes hauntingly real. Dunant takes that absence and weaves together a pair of possible "explanations," playing out alternating scenarios of seduction (Anna in the throes of a disturbingly passionate, illicit affair) and abduction (Anna in the grasp of a stranger whose cordiality turns gradually to madness).
The narratives are both twinned and twinning, less separate alternative accounts than a dialogue, with moments, objects, and phrases that serve as uncanny mirrors between the two. Dunant is indeed a skilled mapmaker--her novel maps the edge of the self, its boundaries that so often go unquestioned. Anna's sojourn in Italy is an excavation of the threat of being defined by one's relationship to others and the temptation to redefine oneself beyond the restrictions of conventional expectation, no matter how seductive, how forceful, that convention. --Kelly Flynn --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Dunant tantalizes the reader by presenting two parallel explanations for what happens on Anna's vacation. As Anna tells us about her past relationships and the birth of her daughter Lily, now six years old, along with two other, very different relationships which may or may not be occurring in Italy while she is "missing," Dunant provides just enough information to allow the reader to jump to conclusions, often incorrect, about what's going on. At the same time, she increases the suspense by having Anna's friend Estella describe the chilling effects of Anna's absence on Lily and the rest of the household back in England.Read more ›
At the core of it all is Anna, a single mother who adores her daughter, Lily, and has constructed a loving, if unconventional family with the help of close friends. In her almost obsessive love for Lily, the beautiful, independent Anna begins to fear the loss of herself in the constant fascination of the ever-changing Lily. So she takes a short holiday to Italy, there to renew neglected facets of her life in a tryst with a new lover, seeking the assurance that motherhood hasn't robbed her of the stimulation of physical and emotional passion she occasionally craves. Anticipating a short escape into the arms of pleasure, Anna's finely tuned intelligence senses something amiss in her personal Garden of Eden. Her brief but intense affair with the mysterious "Samuel" sends a shiver of uncertainty below the seemingly uncomplicated cloak of pleasure, while Lily remains safely ensconced at home in London with her mother's dearest friend, Estelle, and "surrogate" father, Paul. But pinpricks of anxiety also begin to intrude upon their purposefully domestic facade, segueing into the worst-case scenario when Anna fails to return as planned. For the child's sake, the adults maintain a united front, quietly enduring an increasing sense of impending tragedy.
Anna's motherhood is finely rendered, artfully exposed and vulnerable, her character the very essence of rapturous first-time motherhood, the pure joy of watching a child bloom, whose very existence is celebrated by those who surround her.Read more ›