‘She was always in many places at once, invested deeply in a hundred different notions, and of all the things I liked about Saskia that was the thing I liked most’.
One snowy morning in an old European capital, a man wakes in a hotel room. A young local woman he has befriended calls to the hotel, and the two of them head out into the snow to find the man an apartment to rent.
Greg Baxter’s astonishing first novel tells the story of these two people on this day – and the old stories that brought them to where they are. Its magically subtle and intense narrative takes them across the frozen city and into the past that the man is hoping to escape, and leaves them at the doorstep of an uncertain future.
“The Apartment” is a book about war, the relationship between America and the rest of the world, and the brittle foundations of Western culture; but above all it is a book about the mysteries and alchemies of friendship – truthful, moving and brilliant.
The Apartment by Greg Baxter is an intriguing little book, which I absolutely loved, but as it is hard to pin down exactly why, I can see why others might not. You see, on the surface, not a lot happens. Man sets out one day with an acquaintance, meets a few people and rents an apartment, and that make this one of the more difficult reviews, I’ve tried to write recently.
It’s very much stream-of-consciousness novel, as various things throughout the day we know him, trigger memories for our narrator, about what brought him to this city. His family, his time in the army, then as a civilian contractor returning to Iraq. It all adds up to a meandering, introspective mood that I just really enjoyed.
With enough money not to need to work, our narrator likes to spend his time wandering around the city, through all the back streets, and ginnels, seeing the city as most people don’t. He certainly wouldn’t admit to be trying to ‘find himself’ but that is what he is doing. He would almost certainly be even more lost had he not met a young local woman, called Saskia. Theirs is a relationship, that is on the cusp of… something… but they seem to still be deciding what that ‘something’ might be, and it’s nice to see it grow, without something more being forced onto it. It it what it is at this stage.
It would be nice to visit a city the way we visit it here, just being in it, exploring it, and tentatively starting a new phase in your life, and friendships.
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