Sunday, November 30, 2014

Book Review: The Swiss Affair by Emylia Hall



(I received a free copy of this novel via Amazon Vine, in exchange for an unbiased review.)

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The most important thing for me to note here is that Emylia Hall is very, very talented at writing prose and at "world-building" - her words truly allowed me to picture Lausanne and the other places she described throughout The Swiss Affair.

Unfortunately, the same can't be said for her character-building. The main character, Hadley, was flat and unbelievable. Her love interest, Joel, seemed like half a joke - he was supposed to be a 40-something professor but was described as looking and acting like a 20-something college student (or someone just out of college). Kristina and what happened to her was predictable at best, not to mention the fact that she was a horrible friend, annoying as a person (in the way that she was portrayed), and therefore I didn't understand why Hadley liked her so much.

That said, if you're looking for a light read, perhaps something to drum up excitement for a trip to Europe or to peruse while on vacation elsewhere, The Swiss Affair should grab your attention. The characters, the events, and their reactions may be on the predictable side, but Ms. Hall's prose does bump this novel up a notch in my book. (Pardon the pun.) 3/5 stars.



"...as long as she stayed just where she was, at the threshold of new experience, all would remain glorious. Nothing would ever be ruined."

"'You're one of those romantics, aren't you?'
She laughed. 'At my age, it'd be sad if I wasn't.'"

"'I know I complain about what I have with Jacques, but when I'm with him, if I just close my mind to everything else, he makes me so happy, Hadley.'
'Eyes wide shut,' Hadley said."

"...were we so badly put together that life could be swiped away so very easily? As snow fell and people laughed in restaurants and said things that they didn't mean on the telephone?"

"'You'd think that nothing could be worse than her being gone. But this is worse.'"

"'You're feeling, Hadley, that's all. You're feeling. And you're living. You're too young to know it, but not everyone does that. It's possible, in fact, to pass almost an entire life without doing much of either. One day, you'll be glad. You don't want to get to my age only to look back and realize that you were too late for life. But I'm not worried about you, not like that. You're not really the running-away type, are you? No, not you. You're more stay and fight.'"

"'I don't know if that came across strongly enough before, and I'm sorry for that. I'm not very good at some things. I've been told that before, but I don't think I cared about the truth too much then. It seems to matter more, as one gets older. Isn't that strange? You'd think it would be the reverse.'"

"'There is always an explanation, Hadley, a pattern of events, cause and effect. Something can seem unpiece-able, but we can always put it together in the end, if that's what we want to do. And maybe it'll only tell us what we already know - a random sequence, the worst stroke of luck - but that in itself is an explanation, n'est-ce pas? We figure a beginning, and an end, and then we can understand. For all of its senselessness, the world makes sense, and we can live with it.'"

"'Oh, and what did you mean when you said "your job"?'
'I was a writer, once.'
'And you're not anymore?'
Hugo shook his head, and the weight of years appeared to return. His forehead creased into a frown. 'No,' he said, 'not anymore.'"

"Hugo was right, you couldn't just let things lie. You had to question, and you had to try and understand."

"'Whiskey,' he said, handing her a half-full glass. 'It helps, when words stop working.'"

"'I just felt like she was making a drama out of it, expecting him to be someone he wasn't. But that's easy to say, isn't it, when it's not happening to you?'"

 "'Isn't it better just to let this go?...This terrible, sad thing. Keep your head above water. Remember all the ways in which she was...great. And somehow find a way to let the rest go.'"

 "'...it's small stuff, it's stupid stuff, but when it happens you're ready for it, and you want it, because you're worn-out, and you're tired of railing. You never let the grief go, but somehow it begins to let go of you. Just a little, just enough. Enough to let you live again.'"

"'People say that there's only one certainty in life and that's death. Well, let me tell you that they're wrong. There's two. The other is that eventually we'll always find a way to live with it. And that's the best thing and the worst thing about it.'"

"...perhaps it was that same instinct she felt now, to stop the earth's spinning for just a moment, refuse to let the next day and the next erase all that had passed before. A desperate act, really, trying to make something matter, when the world rushed on regardless."

"'I don't want to give up yet.'
'Give up? Hadley, I think it's the opposite. Accepting something is never giving up.'"

"She knew, without having read a word of his work, that he would have been a good write. For this much was obvious - he chose what to tell and when to tell it, and by quiet tricks, politely proffered handkerchiefs and offers of assistance, he kept you coming back for more."

"'You underestimate yourself. You're a force, Hadley.'
'A force? What kind of force? I don't feel like one.'
'Life,' he said, 'you're brim full of it. And that gives you a responsibility, a responsibility to do as much as you can with it.'"

"'...a girl like you. You should have the world at your feet.'
Haley looked down. 'I don't even want that,' she said. 'I just thought someone would be around this week, and they're not. It's my fault, I guess. I made a mistake. Actually, we both made it, but...I let it happen. I even wanted it to happen.'"

"'Missing something,' he said, 'I wonder, is that better than never having had it in the first place?'"

"She hadn't meant to stay away as long as she had, but he didn't know that. Perhaps, in a very different way, he was disappearing, too, slipping away from her, a little more day by day."

"'I really wasn't myself. I'm still not. Nothing felt right then, and nothing feels right now.'"

"'I've written loss, over and over. It's a feature of every one of my books, I suppose. But do I understand it? No, I can't claim that.'"

"'I do want the truth...But you know what, I want a different kind of truth. I want to feel something different. Something that isn't sad, or bad, or hopeless.'"

"...she had been deceiving herself if she thought she could go back to how things were before. Desire didn't let you off that easily."

"'No one can ever know,' he said...
'No,' she said. 'But we will, won't we?'
'Yes,' he said, 'and that's all that ever matters.'"

"'Whenever I'm with you and I'm happy, later I feel bad about it. But that's okay, I know that's just how it is. I don't want it to be any other way, not yet.'"

"'When I was writing, I spent my life in a state of perfect agitation, my mind pulling in every direction. That was my way. I didn't realize how much I missed it, until I felt it again.'"

"'When I was writing, my days were upside down and back to front. I would begin work at three o'clock in the morning, because an idea seized me and I couldn't sleep. Or I'd simply work all the way through the night and sleep the whole day. A story would take me by the throat and refuse to let me go. All my days were filled with life and death and sex. My nights, too. What else? Beauty. Evil. Generosity. Pettiness. I lived every emotion and wrote every possible character, all of my beginnings, all of my endings.'"

"'...you would have been terribly hurt,' he said.
'And now?' she said. 'What am I now?'
'Perhaps you're someone who knows the truth.'"

"Joel was the only person who'd ever torn the earth from beneath her feet, in all of the good ways, and now in an unimaginably bad way. But the good ways were still there. They still counted. Wasn't it her choice, to decide how much it mattered that he had lied?"

"He had comforted her, when she needed it most. That was true. He had kissed her and held her. That was true. He had distracted her from all that was sad and bad and taken her into the white Alps and loved her there. That was true. Any trickery had always been accompanied by warming words and hope, the hope that one day things would be better than they were now. And that had been true."

"'I might have tricked myself that [she] never existed. I might have tried to pretend that we never mattered to one another. That's the coward's way to avoid pain. It always gets you in the end.'"
"'Say it...Because what I'm thinking is absolutely, completely, impossible. So, you need to say it. Or I'll get it wrong again. I'll think you're someone you're not. Again...Tell me. The truth.'
'I love you.'
'Not that. Never that.'
'...I can't...'
'One true sentence. Isn't that what your Hemingway would say? The truest sentence you know...Say it.'"
"'The first time I saw you I wrote about it. The second time I saw you I wrote about it. And the third. I carried on writing. You, and only you. I want you to know what I saw in you from the beginning. What I kept on seeing in you. Even after what happened...I kept writing about you. I want you to believe that you existed for me before, and that you'll never stop existing for me after.'"
"'I want you to know that for a little while you were the best thing I knew. And then you were the very worst. I guess somehow that should equal things out, but I don't know if it does. Does it make you disappear? Should it?'
'I'll be as good as gone,' he said. 'I deserve to be.'
'No, you won't,' she said."

"...she had felt, for the first time, as though the top of her head had come clean off, and she'd dissolved, tiny stars fizzing in the ether. He had taken so much away, but he had given her that. That feeling that didn't belong anywhere on earth, where there were fears and blizzards and dark nights and consequences and loathing and shame and pretending that things were all right when they weren't, not even close."
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