The backcover blurb calls these three novellas an exploration of love. I beg to disagree. They are an exploration of loss.
First, a young soldier dies in mysterious circumstances during the Vietnam war. The loss is devastating to his parents. The question is how and will they go on.
Second, two people have an affair which means they meet for a week or two once a year. How painful is the resultant loss. Loss, dealt with and revived over and over. Loss, haunting their brief blasts of happiness, never far from their thoughts. The question is how and will they go on.
Third, a resident academic at a university college is in love with one of his charges – they have a sexual relationship. His field of expertise is the classics and he writes about Socratic love. His loss is projected. Well aware that the relationship can’t go on forever, he practises loss by sending the young lover to Greece whilst he stays behind. It doesn’t really help. The boy comes back, the torment is none improved. Loss, the future loss he can’t stop, fills his mind. The question, again, is how and will he go on.
John Clanchy is a wonderful writer. It’s really too bad that every one of his books belongs on the shelf ‘books you won’t read before you die’. I do hope somebody proves me wrong.