To the City

Gillian Tindall

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05 April 2012
184 pages

Joe Beech, a London publisher, is in his fifties. Strong and healthy, married for twenty-five years with two grown children, with many friends and attractive to women, his life would seem good – yet he is haunted by a sense of pain and foreboding.

A family skiing holiday in Austria with friends seems to promise respite, yet under the brightness of the snow, the physical exhilaration, the shared jokes and memories from other holidays, something dark still seems to be working. Whom or what are threatened? His children? His son’s beautiful girlfriend? His marriage? An old friend? Himself? In the six days in the mountains which, physically and temporally, form the book’s compass, Joe finds himself travelling far back in his mind to re-visit the past: as a young child in 1939 he was despatched from this same country to the safety of England by his Jewish parents, never to return except as a stranger. For him, Vienna, his birthplace, has become loaded with the significance of a city known only from dreams, and the prospect of spending some days there after the holiday – and secretly meeting a woman-friend there – fills him with both excitement and dread. In what sense will this be the journey’s end? What, finally, is waiting there for him?

Gillian Tindall has always been interested in the way in which people are governed by past events, by their own perception of those events and by their complex relationships with places. To The City is one of her finest and most subtly constructed novel to date.

‘Remarkable for its penetration into another world, another life.’ Spectator

‘Tindall’s novel is powerful, intricate, skilled and moving.’ Publishing News

‘Desperately true to life . . . wholly convincing, full of thought, feeling and wisdom.’ Sunday Times