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The novel is set in a milieu that is ripe for deep consideration of issues of war, home, bigotry, fascism and faith, namely, Lisbon in the late 1930s, a city filled with refugees fleeing Europe and trying to find new countries to accept them. But the novel focuses instead on four shallow, silly people who act like spoiled teenagers out of Gossip Girls. The narrator is a car salesman; the other couple write mystery novels under a pseudonym. The characters are disengaged from the war and nearly oblivious to the tragedies around them, both in Lisbon and in Europe. No doubt there were plenty of dull, disengaged people trying to leave Europe at that time, but it's not something worth reading about. The audiobook narrator had a good sense of voice for the characters.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
I'm wondering whether this is a different "David Leavitt". It's a bit painful to be honest. The way in which the main characters meet is a slapstick comedy of sorts, but not a good one. Peter's glasses are stepped on accidentally by Edward. As Peter is short sighted this leaves Peter effectively blind. From that point it's embarrassing how often Leavitt has Peter stumble and fall into Edward's manly arms (I think it's three times within this initial meeting). Once was too cliché. Three times...is pressing the point a little too hard. As this is the opening of the book it is difficult to forgive and move on.
The rest of the book has comedic elements with plenty of light comedy characters (in particular Iris's dog), but thankfully nothing as bad as that first piece.
The sexual attraction is never quite convincing. It's more awkward than anything else and it's difficult to find what Pete and Edward see in each other. Ditto the friendship between the two couples - they have very little in common & it's hard to imagine them wanting to spend time in each other's company.
The Lost Language of Cranes and Equal Affections are both significantly superior works by Leavitt - each is absolutely engaging and enjoyable. By comparison The Two Hotel Frankfort's is so flat. It picks up right at the very end, but it's too little, too late.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful