‘We were staying at David’s apartment in Paris the night the woman fell onto the Metro tracks.’And in that first sentence you have the kernel of this book’s first act nestling in the palm of your hand.
David is Grace’s lover. He is married, with children. Grace knows this. David knows she knows. They have been having an affair for eight years; Grace flies to Paris whenever she can to stay with David in the City of Love. She is content to wait: David has told her he only stays with his wife for the sake of their children; when they are old enough he will leave her and come to Grace, forever.
There is no guilt on Grace’s part about this betrayal of another woman, a woman she has never met. After all, David and his wife haven’t made love for years. It is a marriage of courteous friendship and good manners. No passion. No fire. A relationship on a steady timeline heading for inevitable separation followed by David’s immediate union with his long-time lover.
At least, that’s how David explains it to Grace. And she is more than happy to believe him. How could she not? He is the most honourable, kindest and loving man she has ever known. Grace is happy to wait. And David is grateful for that; he shows it in so many small but telling ways. If happiness is theirs in the here and now; bliss will surely follow.
Until the night the woman falls onto the Metro tracks…
David doesn’t hesitate. He leaps down onto the rails, seizes the stricken woman and bundles her up and over into the arms of the less brave commuters still hesitating on the platform above. They drag him up a moment later, seconds before a train surges out of the tube tunnel and rumbles over the spot where the woman and her rescuer were struggling.
A dramatic scene. But it will ultimately prove to be the end of Grace and David. He hurries her away, seemingly unwilling to be hailed a hero. But the whole incident has been captured on CCTV and David becomes a sort of Scarlet Pimpernel of bravery, the centre of an international media search to find and identify ‘L’homme mystere’ or ‘heros ce soir’.
Disaster for David. His wife had no idea he was in Paris with another woman. And the CCTV shows him hurrying away with her, their body language making it clear they are ‘a couple.’ Cover blown. Affair unmasked. And the consequence? Well, I’ve said enough…
The other side to this compelling story is Grace’s life as a gifted musician too frightened to play her cello in public. Instead she devotes herself to making and restoring violins, violas, cellos… a career that will be her salvation when the affair with David seems to have imploded.
Anstey Harris writes beautifully, lyrically, about classical music and the instruments and musicians that make it possible. Some of these chapters are pure poetry, and they make a wonderful counterpoint to the moment when the extent of David’s capacity for betrayal is revealed. We always suspected he was a charming, lying creep. But the denouement, when it comes, exceeds all expectations.