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Customer reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

on 14 April 2014
This a well written piece which successfully evokes the feel of rural French war time living. The characters are all superbly assembled and play their part to the full in this delightful, imaginative and ultimately thrilling book. You will fall in love with Katya yourself.
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on 1 July 2016
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on 30 December 2014
Interesting as always with Trevenian. Didn't see the end coming.
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on 4 December 2016
In the summer of 1914, Jean-Marc Montjean a recent graduate from
medical school, arrives in the Basque village of Salies, on the French side
of the Pyrenees to assist the village physician. One of his first assignments
is to treat the rakish brother of a beautiful young woman called Katya
Treville. As he comes to know his patients family, Jean-Marc begins to
realise that they are all haunted by a horrifying dark secret-but he can't
help falling in love with Katya.

Each day, after the surgery of the village physician he hurries to the
Treville house on the outskirts of the village to replace the dressing on
his patients arm and to spend time with his sister, Katya, also meeting
the strange father of the two. After a couple of weeks of this, he feels
himself becoming closer and closer in his affection for Katya when he
hears some terrible news. The family intend to move away the following
week!!But before that day they all spend time together at a Basque fiesta
in the village of Jean-Marc's birth and some terrible events occur, which
make the potential romance become a terrible nightmare.

This beautiful almost idyllic book which whilst relatively short, Trevannian manages
to encapsulate within a few pages more than lesser writers are able to do in a few
Complimentary copy provided by netgalley.com for honest review
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on 14 February 2011
This is not a page turner, but a brilliant, slow-moving psychological thriller. Some say the 19th century ended only in 1914 with the outbreak of WW I [and the 20th century in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall]. The life of newly-graduated medical doctor Jean-Marc Montjean (25)(JMM) straddles both centuries. JMM wrote this account of the fateful events of the summer of Katya in 1914 which deeply marked him, only in 1938 when he returns to where it all happened. In 1914, as in 1938, the air is rife with rumors about war...
In 1914, JMM works in Salies in his Basque home area as a temporary understudy of the resident doctor Gros, who is awesomely ugly, but a great success with women of a certain age, who patronize this spa village, a delightful book character. JMM is totally bored until handsome Katya seeks his help when her twin brother Paul breaks his collar bone. The twins (26) live with their father, a historian specialized in medieval village life, in a rented, chilly, half-ruined summer house 2.5 km out of Salies. He bandages Paul and before returning to his lodgings in Salies, JMM realizes he is in love with Katya.
No reader/reviewer on any Amazon site has dared to disclose fully what happens next. When love grows between Katya and JMM, her twin brother Paul warns JMM repeatedly to stop meeting Katya, with ever more contrived stories of why his family fled from his beloved Paris to the foothills of the Pyrenees and a damp ruin...
Katya is either alert, daydreaming or demure. She is the most enigmatic character in the book. Her twin brother Paul is a truly decadent male, a copy of J.-K. Huysmans hero Des Essentes in his 1884 novel "Against Nature". JMM is the only character foreshadowing the 20th century, questioning what is wrong with the Age of Grace and foreshadowing the Era of Efficiency. Finally, the twins' scholarly father appears unaware of his surroundings.
Trevanian (T) is the pen name of a Canadian professor of linguistics and communication sciences in the USA. His unique gift was (he passed away in 2005) his ability to grasp and copy the writing styles of bestselling - or classical writers. He could hardly believe the success of "The Eiger Sanction", a parody of Ian Fleming's James Bond novels and wrote another, "The Loo Sanction". "The Main", written in the present tense about a widowed police veteran in Montreal in the mid-1970s, is a homage to Emile Zola. The worldwide success of these novels prompted him to turn his back on teaching and the USA and settle with his family in French Basque country, which forms the backdrop of "Shibumi", a parody of the popular Ninja books written by e.g. James Clavell and Eric von Lustbader in the late 1970s. And of this book, which is a brilliant horror story in the vein of Marcel Proust and J.-K. Huysmans. [Finally, readers should consult Wikipedia to find out how versatile a writer Trevanian was].
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VINE VOICEon 30 June 2009
After a bit of a slow start, this book became a quick, enjoyable read, let down at the end by a slightly silly finalé.

Set during the long hot summer preceeding the First World War, the narrator is a young doctor on his first posting. He finds himself in a French village with little to do, in a practice devoted to pampering wealthy middle-aged women. When the mysterious Katya appears requiring medical aid for her brother, he is besotted.
The book's strengths are the atmospheric rendering of that Summer of 1914 and wonderful descriptions of a traditional Basque fete.
The characterisations are a little weak but the book is short and to the point, a good beach read, let down by a slightly unbelievable ending.
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on 29 September 2015
This is one of my favorite books - I have read it more than once which I rarely do.
It is warm and sad. It portrays a Basque summer so nicely that you wan't to be there. The story of Katya is so saddening and it is still relevant.
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on 9 September 2007
I had never heard of Trevanian before and bought the book on a whim. I am so glad I did. I read a lot of books and found this one outstanding. The writing is entertaining and extremely humorous it had me, literally, laughing out loud. I will be buying more books by Trevanian on the strength of this one.
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on 20 November 2011
Really enjoyed this book - beautifully written and with a superb twist in the end !
Will definitely check out others by this author.
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