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The Boston Globe: "The title characters, the have-nots of this unsettling novel, are not its protagonists but rather features of the human landscape in which its more advantaged central characters act out their amorphous crises."

Date: Mar 31 2008

The title characters, the have-nots of this unsettling novel, are not its protagonists but rather features of the human landscape in which its more advantaged central characters act out their amorphous crises.

As the novel opens, a young Berlin lawyer named Jakob has experienced two extraordinary strokes of luck. Just back from a business trip to New York, he missed by one day the conflagration at the World Trade Center that took the life of a colleague; and, by coincidence, he has been reunited with Isabelle, the woman he has longed for since knowing her briefly 10 years earlier. Isabelle is a blank slate on which men write their most inchoate desires. Rather offhandedly, the couple marry and move to London. While Jakob gets caught up in sexual gamesmanship at his British law firm, Isabelle, left at loose ends, becomes naively, dangerously entangled with two neighbors, an abused child and a brooding hoodlum.

Katharina Hacker draws out through indirection and a sense of suspended menace the inner lives of characters utterly dissimilar in portion and privilege. The term, "Pinteresque," comes to mind, and not simply because of the novel's evocative north London setting.

By Amanda Heller
The Boston Globe
March 23, 2008