Thursday, 1 November 2012

Expats by Chris Pavone


A while ago I went to a writer's meeting at the Sterling Bookshop in Brussels. It was a fabulous evening. Chris Pavone presented his new book 'Expats' which has got stunning reviews. He lived as an expat in Luxembourg.  Accompanying his wife who was to work a couple of years in Luxembourg he had to get use to being at home, taking care of the kids and all the things that makes the normal life go on. With a background in editing it seemed like a good idea to take this opportunity to write a book. It was a fantastic opportunity to meet the author and to put a lot of questions to him about his writing. The book being so popular so this might be the last time that you had the opportunity to meet him in such a private environment. 'Expats' is about expats but maybe not in the sense that we think about it. The book is set in Luxembourg (if you know it you will recognise you) as well as in other European countries and cities. In the centre of the story are two couples who become friends (or do they?). As the author said: 'This is a book about people with secrets'.

The story is set from Kate's view-point. She is married to Dexter and have two children. They meet another American couple Julie and Bill. Kate with a background in the CIA soon becomes suspicious of the others and since old habits are difficult to get rid of, starts investigating them, which leads her to...her husband! The story evolves between Kate's normal, married life with children, schools, shopping etc and the more exciting life of an ex-CIA spy. Both sides of her life are told in a way that makes them both seem quite possible.

It is a thriller with many layers  It starts with a 'bang' and you are into the book. But, then it goes a little bit slow. There are a lot of descriptions of expat life in Luxembourg and other places and it gets sometimes a little bit too much. Maybe more when you are an European expat yourself. However, from an American point of view it might be more exciting. The author switches between the present, the story as it was some months ago and glimpses back to the old life. Slowly, slowly you get the background to the present. From the middle of the book the story evolves a little bit faster which I think improves the book. It is a different angle and it is not until the end that the whole story is revealed in its many aspects. It is well worth a read. It is one of the few books where the story is fantastic but you can still believe that it actually could happen.

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