Decompression: A Novel

Decompression: A Novel

by Juli Zeh
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

A psychological thriller in the tradition of Patricia Highsmith about two couples caught in a web of conflicting passions while deep-sea diving off the beautiful Canary Islands

In the late 1990s, Sven Fiedler and his girlfriend, Antje, left Germany for the island of Lanzarote, rejecting what Sven considered a vulgar culture of materialism and

Overview

A psychological thriller in the tradition of Patricia Highsmith about two couples caught in a web of conflicting passions while deep-sea diving off the beautiful Canary Islands

In the late 1990s, Sven Fiedler and his girlfriend, Antje, left Germany for the island of Lanzarote, rejecting what Sven considered a vulgar culture of materialism and judgment. The young couple set up a diving service catering to tourists eager to bask in the warm sunshine and explore the silent, gleaming marine paradise that makes this otherwise barren volcanic island such a remarkable retreat. Sven’s approach was simple: take the mechanics of diving seriously, instruct his clients clearly, and stay out of their personal business as best he can.
 
And life on the island goes smoothly until two German tourists--Jola von der Pahlen, a daytime soap star on the verge of cinematic success, and Theo Hast, a stalled novelist--engage Sven for a high-priced, intensive two-week diving experience. Staying in a guest house on Sven and Antje's property, the two visitors and their hosts quickly become embroiled in a tangle of jealousy and suspicion.

Sven is struck by Jola's beauty, her evident wealth, and her apparently volatile relationship with the much older Theo. Theo quickly leaps to the conclusion that Sven and Jola are having an affair, but, oddly, he seems to facilitate it rather than trying to intervene. Antje, looking on, grows increasingly wary of these particular clients.
 
As the point of view shifts from one character to the next, the reader is constantly kept guessing about who knows what, and, more important, who is telling the truth. A brutal game of delusion, temptation, and manipulation plays out, pointing toward a violent end. But a quiet one, down in the underwater world beneath the waves.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
03/17/2014
Sven Fielder, the narrator of this deft thriller from German author Zeh (In Free Fall), used to be a lawyer but is now a diving instructor for tourists in the Canary Islands. Self-centered, incapable of feeling or comprehending deeper emotions, Sven is content to spend his days with a lover whom he regards as a convenience. The arrival of actress Jola von der Pahlen and her abusive husband, Theo Hast, on the island of Lanzarote disrupts his routine. Sven becomes increasingly obsessed with Jola, while Theo inexplicably encourages the affair. Wrestling with unfamiliar emotions, the infatuated instructor can’t fathom the intricacies of his clients’ dysfunctional relationship, his true role in it, or the depths to which his clients will sink. This is a competent character study of a man drawn unwillingly into a situation he’s ill equipped to handle—a figure whose fundamental flaws leave him vulnerable to destruction from a direction to which he’s blind. (May)
From the Publisher
"A mesmerizing and disturbing psychological thriller...Zeh's talent pulls this morally murky tale up from the depths and toward a redeeming light." —Wall Street Journal

"Erotic intrigue, deep-sea diving and clients from hell make for a lively mix in this German author’s fourth novel.... The gathering suspense is complemented by nuanced characterization in a pleasingly unpredictable work." —Kirkus Reviews

"Zeh is adept at describing the carelessness and perversities of the rich and famous.... [T]his is a story about obsession – this time with status, looks, and celebrity culture." —The Independent

"Gripping...Zeh is exceptional at building tension, and her use of shifting viewpoints keeps the reader guessing to the end. A darkly comic thriller that is impossible to put down." —Library Journal

“A tale that unfolds at a high level of psychological excitement.” —Der Spiegel
 
“A nightmarish, furious, cold thriller…Juli Zeh is at her literary best when she's describing underwater silence, when she's describing situations in which isolation is total and the world as it exists above water is bidden farewell. This is phenomenal.”Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung
 
“Juli Zeh's love-triangle drama easily bears comparison with the work of Patricia Highsmith, doyenne of the conspicuously amoral.”Brigitte

Library Journal
03/15/2014
In this gripping fourth novel by award-winning author Zeh (Eagles and Angels), two couples embark on a deep-sea diving adventure off the coast of the beautiful Canary Islands and discover that mystery and danger lurk both below and above the water's surface. Sven Fiedler has left his stressful job as a lawyer in Germany and, along with girlfriend Antje, establishes a new, more relaxing life on the island of Lanzarote. Sven starts a business as a diving instructor, offering lessons to tourists, while Anjte runs her own real estate agency. This seemingly happy pair host a visiting German couple, struggling writer Theo and Jola, an heiress and soap opera actress, in the guesthouse on their property. The visiting pair have hired Sven, at a considerable expense, for two weeks of intensive diving instruction. Soon, however, the couples are ensnared in a web of jealousy, lies, and suspicion that can only lead to violence. VERDICT Zeh is exceptional at building tension, and her use of shifting viewpoints keeps the reader guessing to the end. A darkly comic thriller that is impossible to put down.—Lisa Block, Atlanta
Kirkus Reviews
2014-03-18
Erotic intrigue, deep-sea diving and clients from hell make for a lively mix in this German author's fourth novel (In Free Fall, 2010, etc.). Poor Sven. The German expat runs a diving business for tourists on a Spanish island of volcanic rock in the Atlantic. He's a superb instructor, never more assured than on the ocean bed; his companion, Antje, handles the admin. It's a sweet life until his new clients arrive. Jola, accompanied by her older partner, Theo, is a stunning beauty, the star of Germany's most popular soap. She's on a mission: She needs to fine-tune her diving skills to land the part of Lotte Haas, pioneer female diver, in an upcoming movie. Signs of trouble between the couple emerge on their first dive. Jola shuts off Theo's air valve, causing him to panic; Sven is furious and reads them the riot act. Their fights, verbal and physical, illustrate a wretched co-dependency like that of George and Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. For all her fame, Jola is deeply insecure; Theo, a writer whose one novel was published 10 years ago, is her flawed father figure. Sven gets sucked in: Finding Jola's appeal overwhelming, he comes close to having sex with her when she offers herself. She's a manipulator, and we know from her diary entries that Sven's involvement is crucial to her dark strategy, though she hadn't reckoned on the long-suffering Antje leaving her mate. Zeh guides us through these developments skillfully, and the underwater scenes are as compelling as those on land; she's been there. Things come to a head at a dinner party on a tycoon's yacht, where Jola learns her archrival will be playing Lotte, and Theo taunts her mercilessly. The well-orchestrated climax occurs the next day, as Sven explores an underwater wreck while Theo and Jola assist from a chartered vessel. Mischief's afoot. Will they all survive? The gathering suspense is complemented by nuanced characterization in a pleasingly unpredictable work.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780385537599
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
05/20/2014
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
272
Sales rank:
257,989
File size:
2 MB

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

JULI ZEH's novels include Eagles and Angels, winner of numerous prizes including the German Book Prize, Gaming Instinct, In Free Fall, and The Method. She has worked at the United Nations in New York, taught at the German Institute for Literature in Leipzig, and currently lives in Brandenburg. In 2013 she was awarded the Thomas Mann Prize.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >