A love story - of sorts - that parallels the structure of “The Odyssey”. Vincent Balmer is a journalist who moves to Lisbon to cover a story about a serial killer. He is joined by his friend and photographer Antonio, with whom he has worked with on many stories in the past. The structure of the novel is such that Vincent, our narrator, is writing a novel based on his friend and what we are reading is that novel and that story which occurs over nine days.
We learn of Vincent’s past - his former jobs, loves, obsessions, interests as well as Antonio’s long lost teenage love, a girl called “Duck”. Antonio meets this precocious girl in his teenage years and eventually gets her pregnant. Her father, being a very old world type (this is the Salazar years, after all), whisks his daughter away to relatives in the country and Antonio never sees or hears from her again. Vincent is brooding over a lost love of his own, a woman named Irene, who never much paid him the time of day.
As luck would have it, Antonio is now seeing Irene, who decides to pay a visit from Paris, causing Vincent all kinds of turmoil. As an act of “revenge” brought on by extreme jealousy, Vincent makes the decision to seek out Antonio’s lost love, to locate the elusive “Duck”. It is here that the novel gains its momentum. We are introduced to other quirky characters - such as Aurora, a strange performance artist, Duck’s miserable, working class father, and Manuel, a woman Vincent meets by chance in an attempt to invoke jealousy from Irene, and the layers of this story begin to be placed and it becomes quite interesting.
Little by little we are given bits of information about each of these character’s dysfunctional lives, ruminations on love and death, all written with a very sad, romantic tone. But the main character in this novel is Lisbon, a highly romantic setting in which these characters move about over the course of nine days.
There isn’t much more of a story here but you can’t help be pulled into these character’s lives and the pace is such that you are eager to find out how this whole sordid soap opera works itself out. A very enjoyable novel, very well written and interestingly layered. Definitely recommended.