Ballantine Books, Paperback, 9780345464095, 255pp.
Publication Date: September 28, 2004
A mesmerizing novel of deception and betrayal from the acclaimed author of Wartime Lies and About Schmidt.
John North, a prize-winning American writer, is suddenly beset by dark suspicions about the real value of his work. Over endless hours and bottles of whiskey consumed in a mysterious café called L’Entre Deux Mondes, he recounts, in counterpoint to his doubts, the one story he has never told before, perhaps the only important one he will ever tell. North’s chosen interlocutor–who could be his doppelgänger–is transfixed by the revelations and becomes the narrator of North’s tale.
North has always been faithful to his wife, Lydia, but when one of his novels achieves a special success, he allows himself a dalliance with Léa, a starstruck young journalist. Coolly planning to make sure that his life with Lydia will not be disturbed, North is taken off guard when Léa becomes obsessed with him and he with her elaborate erotic games. As the hypnotic and serpentine confession unfurls, we gradually discover the extraordinary lengths to which North has gone to indulge a powerful desire for self-destruction.
Shipwreck is a daring parable of the contradictory impulses that can rend a single soul–narcissism and self-loathing, refinement and lust.
“Fascinating . . . Absolutely riveting . . . The suspense . . . swells like a tsunami . . . A first-rate read.”
–Joyce Cohen, People (three stars out of four)
“Mesmerizing . . . Hypnotic . . . Intensely readable and even soul-shaking . . . Shipwreck is at once a classic, even Jamesian novel of character and a highly erotic, very grown-up modern thriller–in other words, another triumph for Louis Begley.”
–Michael Dirda, Washington Post Book World
“Begley is a major talent . . . He is totally in command here, and we can only marvel at his portraiture . . . Shipwreck is a novel of skill, insight, and authority.”
–Roger Harris, Sunday Star-Ledger (Newark)
“Dazzling . . . So enthralling that the temptation is to let a thousand glowing adjectives bloom . . . Will pin readers to their chair right up to the final page . . . The ending is a tour de force.”
–Mameve Medwed, Boston Globe
“Compellingly and compulsively told . . . [North’s] obsessive self-awareness, like a mirror, catches our attention and holds it fast.”
–Merle Rubin, Los Angeles Times