by Louis de Bernieres
Alfred A. Knopf Canada 2008
'Le mariage bourgeois a mis notre pays en pantoufles,
et bientot aux portes de la mort.'
Albert Camus, La Chute
This is the story of Christopher and Roza. Christopher is a bored pharmaceutical salesman in London who suddenly decides to do something different. He is plagued with a wife at home who has become indifferent to him and to the world. He refers to her as, “a great loaf of white bread.” Roza is a Yugoslavian refugee whose father was a partisan during the war, and decides that it might be fun to dress up like a street walker and see what happens.
This is London in the early 1970s. Chris is a man in classic midlife crisis. His marriage is loveless, and his salesman job more or less meaningless. When Chris meets Roza, a woman he mistakes for a prostitute, he falls into a kind of obsession that sees him returning again and again to listen to stories from her past that she uses to keep him coming back. Thus starts a non-sexual relationship that is akin to the story of Scherezade. They meet regularly and Chris becomes more and more enamoured with her.