The Mayor's Tongue, By Nathaniel Rich

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The Independent Culture

Nathaniel Rich has written a debut novel that is, perhaps not surprisingly given his day job as an editor of The Paris Review, largely about writing. Eugene Brentani, a university graduate unsure of his next step in life, has become a removal man with a firm in New York City run by Alvaro, from the Dominican Republic.

Parallel to his story is that of Mr Schmitz, who fought in the Second World War. Schmitz was stationed in Trieste for a time, and Trieste is where Eugene traces Alison Chisholm, a young woman whom he has met in New York. She is helping her father to research his biography of a vanished US writer, Constance Eakins, who seems to be holed up in the Trieste hills. Schmitz's best friend, Rutherford, meanwhile, has moved to Italy, and Schmitz is worried about him.

Stories, generations and nationalities all collide in what is an entertaining and superior novel. (Albeit not quite as superior as it thinks, dotted as it is with more than a few clichés – "deepening frowns", "laughing hollowly", that kind of thing.)