The Lake, by Paola Kaufmann

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The Independent Culture

It's sad that the young Argentinian author Paola Kaufmann died suddenly last year. This complex, expressive novel suggests she had the potential to become an exceptional writer.

It's the Twenties, and a scientific team is exploring a remote Patagonian lake in search of a monster rumoured to lurk in its depths; but the expedition is a shambles. The man who invited them to the lake with stories of "an enormous animal with a head similar to that of a gigantic swan" has absconded, and the team has ended up being guided by a mysterious European, Viktor Mullin. The scientists finally leave empty handed and widely ridiculed.

Fifty years later, Mullin's daughter, Ana, lives in a shack beside the lake with two ageing Hungarian refugees, Lanz and Ilse. The story of how Lanz and Ilse came to join Ana and of the secrets the lake contains poses many subtle questions about the nature of memory and how people deal with loss.

Alma Books, £8.99