The narrator of the book is a dancer living in Amsterdam. One day he goes out to buy some cigarettes for his girlfriend--also a dancer--and is kidnapped and held for a period of time before being released. Although Thomson's book is not as plot-dependent as a thriller, for example, it would be unfair to give away too much, simply because the force of each development in the book and the response of the reader are part of the strength and psychological sharpness of the novel and its emotional geography, which is comparable to the narrator's own mental map of the city:
"There was a sense in which the city had been trying to tell me something all along. You'll never solve this case. You might as well forget it. But I had not been listening, of course. Look at the map. It's all there, in a way. The whole story".
At a time when so many writers are obsessed with trauma--particularly child-abuse and its psychological legacy--Thomson chooses to explore the concept through an event that is both more and less sensational. The narrator undergoes an ordeal that, given its aura of artifice and ritual, might find its literary parallel in, for example, The Story of O, but the book also distances the reader from the traumatic events by switching from first to third person narration--a simple device that complicates and deepens the effect of the book as a whole. This shift in narrative position suggests both a complex questioning of and reference to certain literary tropes of confinement and abuse as well as directing the reader to reflect on the psychological distancing perhaps necessary to deal with the trauma.
Charting the narrator's attempt to live with the ineradicable legacy of what he has experienced, his revelations are compellingly and acutely delineated: Thomson's strange, disturbing tale asks profound questions about the burden of the past, especially of past events that set one apart from others rather than providing a shared, communal retrospection: how do we relate to others when we have experienced events that defy rationality, explanation or resolution? --Burhan Tufail
A shocking, fascinating novel by the author of The Insult and Divided Kingdom--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.