And here we are on a hypothetical archeological dig! On the outside, the world seems normal with a happy family enjoying life and tolerating the eccentric Uncle Daniel. The Travels of Daniel Ascher by French author Deborah Levy-Bertherat is told by Helene who is attending a college in Paris to become an archeologist. Who knew that her major project would be unearthing the family secrets kept so hidden that not even the participants knew all the details. As Helene peels back each layer of her Great Uncle’s story, she realizes there is more to discover. The key is Daniel Roche, a famous author of a popular children’s book series, The Black Insignia, who has provided the apartment where she lives. He is an uncle who she never quite understood, but now, after his return home from his world travels, she gets to know him better as he slowly discloses his secret personality and mysteriously reveals himself, giving clues to his past life when he was known as Daniel Ascher. Finally she can appreciate his work as author H. R. Sanders, and perhaps use the written word to better understand the man. The sharing of stories and photographs at family gatherings round out her investigation.
An interesting premise whose mystery is slowly revealed as if the reader were picking the petals off a flower to reach the center bud. There were a lot of nice little touches, and the background of the holocaust gives the reader a better understanding of Daniel Asher’s motivations. The majority of the novel takes place in Paris from 1999 to 2000, an exotic setting which adds to the mystique. I appreciated that Levy-Bertherat kept the book (novella or novelette?) short and to the point instead of dragging out the plot with unnecessary details or repetitions resulting in boredom instead of anticipation. I also enjoyed the ending which was slightly open-ended, yet provided closure. The translation from the original French by Adriana Hunter was problematic at spots, but I was still kept engaged with the text. An interesting read. Three and a half stars.
Thank you to Netgalley and Other Press for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.