In the Company of Angels, By Thomas E Kennedy

Love's a sanctuary for tortured souls
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The Independent Culture

Victims of torture come in many guises.

Some, such as Nardo Greene, a survivor of Pinochet's military regime in Chile, are the political kind. Some, such as Michela Ibsen, who is beaten regularly by her husband, are the domestic kind. Both are hurt behind closed doors: the essence of torture is that it must happen in secret.

Thomas E Kennedy's novel about these two individuals, Nardo and Michela, and how the damage done to them can be repaired, is astonishingly tender and sensual; also clear-eyed and devoid of sensation. Nardo has arrived in Copenhagen from Chile after having been imprisoned for teaching "subversive" poetry to his students. A psychiatrist is helping him cope with his experiences, but until he catches sight of Michela, "the woman with eyes of blue light", he feels he has little to live for. Michela has noticed him, too, but she is in a relationship with a younger man, Voss, since her abusive husband left her and their teenage daughter killed herself.

Voss is so enamoured of Michela that he beats her, and she wonders if there is something about her that attracts this kind of man. Her father – dying of cancer in a nursing home two floors below his wife – is also a bully.

Kennedy brings Michela and Nardo together through poetry, through an understanding of what it means to be strong and how to survive. It is a time-honoured but convincing tale of man's inhumanity to man, and of man's ability to love and to heal.