Once upon a time, Mama (before she was a Mama) travelled with her tent in the South Pacific. On one of the Fijian islands, she visited a village built inside the crater of an extinct volcano and heard about village life from one of the residents, who had studied and qualified as the local tour guide. Whenever he began a new episode in his history of his people, he would begin his sentence with, "It says...", as if he carried with him a huge invisible (and, I imagined, dusty) book in which his forefathers had written down the stories and facts he was now 'reading' to us. This verbal tic endowed everything he had to impart to us with a certain gravity, with the full weight of his cultural history, and I could see that the other westerners with me were listening with unaccustomed respect to this man's version of reality.
In Louis de Bernière's new novel, A Partisan's Daughter
A Partisan's Daughter is a love story, set, to my great nostalgic pleasure, in the 1970s, the age of the brown Austin Allegro, Sebastian Coe at his fastest, and The Police singing 'Roxanne'.
In a derelict building in Highgate.
Unlike Birds Without Wings, the terrifying brutality of which I couldn't bear, here de Bernieres proves his ability to write the subtle sadness of opportunities missed, relationships gone cold and lumpy, realities misunderstood. And as the reader grasps for threads of truth, and as it slithers and slips around, there's a little voice somewhere that says love means resisting the temptation to tell the ultimate lie.