MAZARINE

CHAR­LOTTE GRIMSHAW ( VIN­TAGE, $ 38)

North & South - - Review -

Frances has an un­ex­pected en­counter with an ex in a park – it’s not spelled out, but she and we find it vaguely un­set­tling. There’s an air of am­bigu­ous me­nace right from the start of Mazarine. More wor­ry­ingly than the chance en­counter, Frances’s daugh­ter, Maya, trav­el­ling on the other side of the globe, has lost con­tact with her mother. The in­creas­ingly lengthy si­lence be­comes in­creas­ingly wor­ry­ing for Frances.

Frances tell this story in the first per­son, but her re­li­a­bil­ity as a nar­ra­tor is ques­tion­able. She is, for in­stance, con­vinced her step­mother is hos­tile to her, but tells us un­self­con­sciously that the rest of the fam­ily think this is ridicu­lous. At var­i­ous points, she ques­tions her own ex­is­tence. Her ther­a­pist thinks she may have dis­so­cia­tive dis­or­der.

Her life seems to be a se­ries of lost or missed con­nec­tions and, in­deed, she is plan­ning a novel on that very sub­ject. But be­fore she can get to it, she has to re­con­nect with her daugh­ter. In the process of at­tempt­ing to do so, she con­nects with Maya’s (also miss­ing) boyfriend’s mother, Mazarine, who owns a lot of crime thrillers. She likes them be­cause, she says, ev­ery­thing gets solved, un­like in real life.

Mazarine also has a let­ter­box de­pict­ing Don Quixote and San­cho Panza – it’s how Frances tracks her down. As they team up on a quest to find their miss­ing chil­dren, it’s not clear which is Quixote and which San­cho, although it seems to be Frances who shares the knight’s slim grip on re­al­ity.

In her cus­tom­ar­ily deft prose, Grimshaw un­spools this dryly ironic tale of in­ter­na­tional con­nec­tions and the threads that bind us all through the in­ti­mate labyrinth the mod­ern world has be­come. The themes weave in and out of the ac­tion seam­lessly, but the

swiftly tied up and neat end­ing may leave us more doubt­ful than ever about Frances’s ac­count of things.

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