Lovers

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Overview

From the acclaimed author of the 2007 New York Times Notable Book Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name comes a stunning novel about the love between husbands and wives, mothers and children.

Twenty-eight years ago, Peter and Yvonne honeymooned in the beautiful coastal village of Datça, Turkey. Now Yvonne is a widow, her twin children grown. Hoping to immerse herself in memories of a happier time—as well as sand and sea—Yvonne returns to Datça. But her plans for a restorative ...

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Overview

From the acclaimed author of the 2007 New York Times Notable Book Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name comes a stunning novel about the love between husbands and wives, mothers and children.

Twenty-eight years ago, Peter and Yvonne honeymooned in the beautiful coastal village of Datça, Turkey. Now Yvonne is a widow, her twin children grown. Hoping to immerse herself in memories of a happier time—as well as sand and sea—Yvonne returns to Datça. But her plans for a restorative week in Turkey are quickly complicated. Instead of comforting her, her memories begin to trouble her.

Overwhelmed by the past and unexpectedly dislocated by the environment, Yvonne clings to a newfound friendship with Ahmet, a local boy who makes his living as a shell collector. But a devastating accident upends her delicate peace and throws her life into chaos—and her sense of self into turmoil.

With the crystalline voice and psychological nuance for which her work has been so celebrated, Vendela Vida has crafted another unforgettable heroine in a stunningly beautiful and mysterious landscape.

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Editorial Reviews

Carolyn See
Sometimes, it seems as if a man would rather struggle into a pair of pantyhose than read a novel by a woman, but everyone might want to take a look at this book. Its title is misleading, perhaps purposefully so; it's really about travel and the frailty of our own identities…The Lovers is somber, seductive, reflective, unsettling. All our lives are journeys, come to think of it. Hopefully, we shed some of our ignorance along the way. Vida writes—so beautifully!—about this process.
—The Washington Post
Josh Emmons
Vida is a subtle writer whose voice is spare and authoritative, at times sounding like a less gothic Paul Bowles, and her third novel is further evidence that she can fashion characters as unpredictable as they are endearing. Although its ending is a little rushed (some situations feel arbitrarily abandoned), the book is a satisfying, often brilliant portrait of a woman searching for relief from things that will not, she discovers at last with something like acceptance, go away.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
The overwrought latest from Vida (Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name) concerns itself with paradoxes of intimacy: isolation within a closely tied family and the unexpected affection between strangers from different cultures. Twenty-six years after her honeymoon in Datça, Turkey, recently widowed Yvonne returns to the Turkish peninsula not to relive the early happy days of her marriage but “to remember” them. Instead, she finds herself haunted by the many struggles she and her husband faced, above all the wedge driven between them by the antics of their alcoholic daughter, Aurelia. As Yvonne explores the town and its surrounding beaches, she starts to settle into her new identity as a widow and finds herself under a microscope as an American tourist traveling alone. A fast friendship with a young Turkish boy eases Yvonne's loneliness, but it also sparks the disapproval of several locals, leading to a climactic conversation and a quiet epiphany. It's a slow, self-involved story, nearly every page of which is marred by Vida's strained attempts to create high art. (July)
Kirkus Reviews
A widow vacationing in Turkey becomes slowly awakened to the tensions in the lives surrounding her and in the ones she left behind. Like Vida's previous book, Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name (2007), this novel concerns a woman eager to escape a host of emotional frustrations back home in the United States. But instead of Northern Lights' chilly Lapland, this story is set on the sunny southwest coast of Turkey, where Yvonne has retreated after her husband's death in a car accident; there, she intends to catch up with her daughter, a recovering addict, and her well-adjusted son. But the narrative deals with Yvonne in isolation, and again Vida shows she's supremely talented at tracing the drifts of memory and emotion that course through a person. The small town where she's rented a house is near where she and her late husband spent their honeymoon some three decades earlier, and it takes little to get her thinking about her past as a wife and mother. The rented house also affects her imagination. Evidence of the owner's sex life is poorly hidden in the rooms, and when his estranged wife visits, Yvonne gets further clued into the emotional and sexual tug of war she's unwittingly stepped into. Though it briefly seems that the novel might take a more sensual turn (the book appears to take its title from Marguerite Duras' The Lover, Yvonne's beach reading), the story soon becomes more complicated. The brief friendships Yvonne strikes up with shop owners, fellow tourists and a young boy on the beach all question how useful it is to try and shed our concerns by pursuing a change of scenery, and Vida's clear, simple prose exposes how Yvonne's feelings of loss emerge despite her bestefforts. A plot turn following the boy's disappearance intensifies the emotional pitch, leading to Yvonne's subtle but powerful revelation about the role she's played in others' lives. An elegant consideration of how death and distance tightens human connections-a big theme that Vida addresses with sure-footedness and charm.
Vogue
“A languorous meditation on how accidents of fate shape a life.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“Vida’s work becomes clearer and more sophisticated with every book she writes; and THE LOVERS is her best and most disturbing novel yet.”
Time Out New York
“Haunting....Vida, a cofounder and coeditor of literary magazine The Believer, has a gift for probing the workings of memory.”
Vanity Fair
“Vida is an elegant, droll writer who gets the strangeness and self-consciousness of traveling alone just right....[THE LOVERS] deserves a place right up there beside [Marguerite Duras’s THE LOVER], for it too is a slender and necessary book of great depth and reach.”
Daily Candy Chicago
“Vida’s rich imagery and deep, skillful dives into tangled emotions will keep you riveted.”
The Daily Beast
“A captivating account of a woman seeking escape and discovering emotional clarity...THE LOVERS is both a meditation on grieving and a gripping page-turner.”
Washington Post
“THE LOVERS is somber, seductive, reflective, unsettling. All our lives are journeys...[and] hopefully, we shed some of our ignorance along the way. Vida writes—so beautifully!— about this process.”
Booklist
“A brilliant, topsy-turvy, twenty-first-century variation on E. M. Forster’s A PASSAGE TO INDIA...Vida creates an atmosphere at once molten and chilling as she deftly exposes the wounding reverberations of timeless conflicts between men and women, parents and children, East and West, appearance and truth.”
New York Times Book Review
“[Vida’s] third novel is further evidence that she can fashion characters as unpredictable as they are endearing...[THE LOVERS] is a satisfying, often brilliant portrait of a woman searching for relief from things that will not, she discovers at last with something like acceptance, go away.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“[Vida] has an eye for understated details that leap from the page and linger in the soul...Vida deftly weaves the power of description into the broader tapestry of Yvonne’s journey...THE LOVERS, slim and transportive, is an invitation to join Yvonne on her journey. It’s worth the trip.”
People
“Quietly provocative, The Lovers explores the perils of self-involvement and the ease with which we destroy one another’s lives.”
People Magazine
"Quietly provocative, The Lovers explores the perils of self-involvement and the ease with which we destroy one another’s lives."
Stephen Elliott
“Stunning. A masterful meditation on grief and love. The Lovers is a sensational novel from one of our finest writers at the height of her craft.”
Zoe Heller
Vendela Vida writes with elegance and economy. In this engrossing novel, she has managed to combine a stingingly acute portrait of grief, a moving meditation on love (both filial and romantic) and a page-turning adventure.
Aleksandar Hemon
“A wise and generous book.”
Carrie LaGree
“A beautiful, complex journey....Ideal for book clubs...it’s filled with rich, luminous prose, and its deceptively delicate plot and pacing provide ample topics for discussion.” (Rating: 5 out of 5)
Linda Grana
“There’s a certain genre in fiction; the ‘woman traveling alone in foreign country when things start to go wrong’ story...not every writer can capture...that sense of impending doom and suspense that is almost Graham Greenish. Vendela Vida has nailed it.” (Rating: 5 out of 5)
Miranda July
“THE LOVERS pulls you out to sea with a masterful hypnosis. I was so enthralled by the grief, the sticky and sandy details, and especially the perfect articulation of feminine self-awareness that I didn’t realize how deep in I was. I read the last page with a tearful gasp.”
Francine Prose
“Vendela Vida’s The Lovers is a spare and haunting meditation on how travel can bring us full circle back to the place from which we should have started. I read it over two days and dreamed about it the second night.”
Zoë Heller
Vendela Vida writes with elegance and economy. In this engrossing novel, she has managed to combine a stingingly acute portrait of grief, a moving meditation on love (both filial and romantic) and a page-turning adventure.
People
“Quietly provocative, The Lovers explores the perils of self-involvement and the ease with which we destroy one another’s lives.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781848875203
  • Publisher: Atlantic
  • Publication date: 7/28/2011

Meet the Author

Vendela Vida is the author of And Now You Can Go and Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name, both of which were New York Times Notable Books of the Year. She received the 2007 Kate Chopin Writing Award and is a founding coeditor of The Believer magazine and the editor of The Believer Book of Writers Talking to Writers. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and children.

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Customer Reviews

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( 15 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 15 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 4, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    profound

    Well over two decades ago Yvonne and Peter married and honeymooned in Datca, Turkey. They lived in Burlington, Vermont and had twins, Matthew and Aurelia.

    With Peter recently buried, Yvonne decides to fly to Turkey to see if she can recapture the happiness she once shared with her late spouse before their alcoholic offspring Aurelia destroyed their relationship. As she returns to the peninsula where East meets West, she finds nothing the same. Even the clothing she wore to not stick out leaves her sticking out as the women wear jeans and t-shorts while she wears a long blouse and skirt. Still as Yvonne begins to enjoy the role of an American widow, some locals including her landlord Mr. Celik wonder why the single female tourist travels by herself. Lonely, she meets and befriends a Turkish boy about ten years old selling seashells. However, the natives do not appreciate an American adult acting friendly to a native child.

    Although the emotional poignancy and epitomes overwhelm the story line at times as there is a constant barrage, readers who appreciate a profound look at a person seeking to regain paradise lost by returning to a memory of an Eden will relish Vendela Vida's deep character study. The story line is purposely slow as the audience gets inside the head of the grieving widow who is filled with remorse, regret and guilt. Turkey serves as a terrific locale for the lead character as like the country is divided between to EU or not to EU; just like Yvonne is split between going home to lonely New England or remain on the peninsular seeking something she lost over the years.

    Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 28, 2011

    Huge Disappointment

    The title doesn't represent the book at all, and the read was quite boring and extremely disappointing! I went out on a limb and chose a book by an author I'd never heard of and I very much regret it.

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  • Posted November 15, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Complex, fascinating and sympathetic

    The Lovers on the surface is the story of Yvonne and her return trip to Turkey. Seeing the place through her eyes, it is the account of a traveler who notices little details in the house and the town. Yvonne's observations on her landlord and his formerly estranged wife draw you in. As Yvonne befriends the couple on a yacht and a young Turkish boy on the beach, these friendships reveal more about Yvonne's past and the complexity of her own life.

    Yvonne's trip to Turkey leads her to an introspection into her marriage, her family, and her life. It's complex, fascinating and sympathetic.

    ISBN-10: 0060828390 - Hardcover
    Publisher: Ecco; 1 edition (June 22, 2010), 240 pages.
    Review copy provided by the publisher.

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  • Posted July 9, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Who are we, really?

    The Lovers, Vendela Vida
    The Lovers is a novel set in Turkey, where a newly widowed woman returns to the place of her honeymoon, almost three decades before. She's trying to escape her life in Vermont, and her new status as the pitied single woman among couples. As the mother of grown twins, she is conflicted with her memories of her marriage and her relationship with her children. She's discovering that as more time passes since her husband's death, the more she is forced to re-evaluate their relationship.

    After describing lush and green Vermont, the description of Turkey provides a stark contrast with dust, stones, and volcanic mountains. It's a none-too-subtle hint that with a new setting in place, things are going to change. But are they? This is where the novel makes a twist: nothing you think is going to happen actually happens. Once in place, she craves the company of others, so much so that she puts up with the imposition of others just to have human contact. Eventually, this leads her to a realization about her own personality and her own future.

    To be sure, this is not a romantic or happily-ever-after "chick" lit story. It is not Eat Love Pray, and there's no glamour, sudden insight, or handsome distraction. Rather, Yvonne, is very much alone and really has no basis to understand who she was, or is. If she's different, then it means her perceptions of her husband and children are altered too, and that's where her story becomes less typical and more interesting. In fact, the title "The Lovers" is misleading...it's not easy to determine who that would describe.

    It doesn't take long for her to realize she's been playing a role, but she has no other script to turn to...she doesn't quite know how to behave anymore. I don't want to reveal any spoilers, but as the plot continues, she is so disoriented that her decisions become riskier and more dangerous. Rather than feature shocking revelations or dramatic confrontations, the novel proceeds to a realistic conclusion. Rather than settle for a shallow resolution, the novel leaves you to ponder deeper complexities of personality and self.

    The story is fast paced, and as a main character, Yvonne is solid. But her children remain a mystery, and it's hard to grasp how they fit in with it all. Additionally, in the beginning there are hints as to the direction of the story that are misleading, and really weren't necessary at all. The book didn't need those elements to mystify us, her story alone is strong enough without them. And while the main character is female, the appeal of the plot isn't limited to a female audience.

    There was one seeming discrepancy: this sheltered woman has put herself in a foreign country, alone, without even a guidebook to the language. She is suspicious at times of others, and rightfully so, as malice is present, and yet she makes no great attempt to lock up her vacation rental or show any sense of caution in her actions. She's throwing euros around as tips, and everyone seems to know she's alone. Unexpected visitors, with their own keys, seem to pop up constantly, and yet she takes it all in stride. That seemed a bit out of character from how she was described, but it's a small complaint.

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  • Posted June 20, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Riveting Story

    The title of this book rather frightened me. I thought maybe this could end up being a raunchy book about two lovers. Not so at all and I was so thankful for that!

    The story revolves around Yvonne who has recently lost her husband and is trying to come to terms with her grief. She goes to Turkey where they honeymooned only to find that Turkey has changed and so has Yvonne. Yvonne has no problems making new friends in Turkey and befriends a young boy who does not speak English and the estranged wife of the man who owns the home she is renting. I thought Yvonne was more at ease with these new friends than with her own children. There were times in this book that I was very afraid for Yvonne and the danger of traveling alone in a country and not being able to communicate with everyone. Vendela Vida did an excellent job making me feel Yvonne's pain and confusion. She portrayed Yvonne as the typical American who needs to fix everything and in many cases makes it much worse. I could so relate in that aspect! I loved the setting of Turkey. It is a setting I am not very familiar with and one I have not read much about. I'm interested in more stories set in the area. I do feel the abrupt ending works well for this short book. At first I wanted more but then decided I was very satisfied with the ending. I would recommend this book. Don't let the title frighten you off!

    I would give this book 4 1/2 stars! I'll also be looking for more titles from Vendela Vida as she is a new to me author.

    Thank you to Greg at Ecco for providing this ARC for review.

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