From Aislinn Hunter, the award-winning author of The World Before Us, comes a vivid novel reminiscent of Anthony Doerr and Michael Ondaatje, about the entwined fates of two very different refugees in two distinct moments: a war-torn Spanish border town in the 1940s; and a British island in the 1970s, as a ship full of would-be migrants approaches shore.
1940 in the Spanish border city of Portbou. As the shadow of fascism lengthens over Europe, three mysterious travellers arrive in town. They carry themselves with the casual ease of Parisian intellectuals, but in reality this trio of two men and a woman are starving, desperate and exhausted from dodging bullets and German forces to cross illegally through the Pyrenees. Their goal is to escape notice in Spain long enough to book transit to Portugal, and then to the USA. Their story, told over a period of 48 absorbing and tense hours, is narrated by one of the men, a writer who gradually accepts that the end is near. In a voice beautifully urbane and utterly despairing, he calmly considers what he must do as the Gestapo close in. He also weighs, his mind and senses sharp with hunger and loss, what any one life means--and as he does so, his attention is caught by a girl named Pia, dancing in the waves on the beach below his window. To her, he addresses all that he thinks and feels during these final heightened hours.
Decades later, in the 1970s, a woman named Pia seeks solitude on a small island in the Atlantic, where she works as the chef at the local inn while coming to terms with her chaotic childhood as the daughter of a war reporter. As Pia's story opens, a raging storm engulfs the island and we learn that a boat carrying refugees is floundering offshore. When Pia and her fellow islanders rush to help, past and present calamities collide.
By turns elegiac and heart-pounding, The Certainties is an intricate and absorbing novel about the thread that connects ideas and actions, past and present. It is riveting in its brilliant contemplative moments, and in its white-knuckle eruptions of violence. A gorgeous, timely meditation on the plight of those who seek refuge, past and present, here and everywhere.
AISLINN HUNTER's first novel Stay was a Globe and Mail Top 100 book, a finalist for the Amazon.ca First Novel Award, and was made into a feature film starring Aidan Quinn and Taylor Schilling. Her second novel, The World Before Us, was published to acclaim internationally, was a Globe Top 100 book, and won the BC Book Prize for fiction. She has a BFA in The History of Art and in Creative Writing from the University of Victoria, an MFA from The University of British Columbia, an MSc in Writing and Cultural Politics from The University of Edinburgh where she has just completed a PhD in English Literature. A contributing editor of ARC Magazine, she teaches Creative Writing at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and lives in Vancouver.