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Book set in SWITZERLAND (Lausanne – Une Aventure*)

15th January 2014

A Heart Bent out of Shape by Emylia Hall: book set in Switzerland (Lausanne).

51daMqB51vLAnyone who dreams of a picture book build-up to Christmas should spend December in Switzerland! “In Lausanne’s old town, felt-hatted merchants in leather aprons sold brown paper bags of hot chestnuts and cups of spiced wine. Sturdy, apple-cheeked men and women set up their tables in the Place de la Palud, laying out discs of hard cheese, and bouquets of lavender. At nightfall, the frost-licked shopping streets were swept with quiet, perhaps just a blast of music as the door of a cavern bar was pulled open by the wind, or the click of an elderly man’s tongue as he politely waited for his dog to do his night-time business. Christmas was approaching, and Lausanne glittered serenely, quietly.” (extract from A Heart Bent out of Shape)

As I read this novel, I truly felt enveloped by the feel of Switzerland, which is why it was a particularly great read in TripFiction terms of ‘seeing a location through an author’s eyes’. The neatness and propriety of La Suisse has been beautifully captured, the mountains that can overpower the view across Lake Geneva made their stunning presence felt and the swirling snow that whisked its way past old buildings adjacent to newer concrete edifices just transported me there. Over a steaming cup of coffee, a renversé as the Swiss call it, I enjoyed how the storyline, with its fluid twists and turns, was reflected in the lapping waves on Lake Geneva, just by the city of Lausanne.

Hadley has come to Lausanne for her year abroad and finds herself in student accommodation at Les Ormes. Here sheIMG_0982 meets Kristina who encourages her to come out of herself and blossom as a young woman. Kristina is open and sociable on the one hand, yet very guarded about her private life on the other, and it is the mystery of her love life that threads its way through the book. With elderly writer Hugo, Hadley begins to explore Kristina’s life in a more expressive way, and she almost becomes the muse who kickstarts his own neglected writing career – she becomes his new story, and fact and fiction become blurred. But she is a grounded young woman, who deals with what life throws at her in an enthusiastic, yet sensible way.

One might guess from her name that the story isn’t complete without mention of Ernest Hemingway who of course spent time travelling around Europe, writing and recording, often in the company of his first wife Hadley. And it was she, of course, who lost his manuscripts on the train as she came to join him in Lausanne. Lausanne is truly the ‘city of literary greats’ and the author even has her character pondering (as she immerses herself in the torrents of sorrow in Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms) “why more stories weren’t set in the shine of Lausanne” with its expansive boulevards and frosted buildings, exotic sprays of palm and silver stretches of water….

This is a particularly great read not only for Swissophiles, but for anyone embarking on their year abroad in order to study; it has a developed storyline, and it also deals with the hardships and joys of being in a new environment, forging new friends and understanding a new culture. And to crown it all, it also takes you on a bit of a skiing adventure. So put your feet up by the fire and enjoy a bit of indulgent reading. This novel ticks all the boxes. And let’s hope the Lausanne Tourist Board can be persuaded to stock copies in their shops – reading novels set in location is just a great way to get to know a place and by reading this novel you will certainly get under the skin of this pretty city.

*Une Aventure in French is translated as an ‘affair’ in English.

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