Another Man - Leslie Croxford
A captivating tale of the obsessive search for the missing chauffeur of an infamous Nazi, alongside the narrator's search for his own new beginning, 'Another Man' by Leslie Croxford is a superb tale of the search for who we really were, are, and might be able to become.
Frank Ward, a research historian troubled by his own past and a sense of emptiness, returns to a Spanish pueblo to celebrate the publication of his first book.
Unexpectedly discovering that Albert Speer's wartime driver had convalescence there after years as a Russian POW, Frank plunges into an attempt to penetrate the mystery of Speer - thecso-called "Good Nazi" - beyond the extent of his crimes.
Consequently, he is drawn into a series of intense encounters in the pueblo where Speer and his driver, although deceased, continue to influence events.
Amongst the people he meets are the cheerful owner of his pension; a malevolent archaeologist; an Argentine pianist and his estranged wife ... and Paloma, their captivating daughter, with whom Frank stands a chance to rediscover love.
Though I didn't quite 'get' the scale of Frank's fixation with, and desire to understand the Nazi, Speer, I was absolutely transported alongside him to the pueblo plazas, villas and cafes, vineyards and arid heat - perfectly created and described, and absolutely redolent of sun-baked, idyllic Mediterranean afternoons and locations.
The setting and details of the locale and characters were faultlessly drawn in my mind's eye by Croxford's vivid depictions, from the eccentric Bog Man - to me, the stereotype cliché of ex-pat with a slightly strange/murky back-story - to the disinterested Magda, whose distaste for her husband and Frank's detailed and seemingly endless discussions is plain to see.
The historical debate around Speer, and the question of whether there can be such a thing as a 'good' Nazi is a tricky concept, but sitting alongside Frank's own story and wish to move on, was an interesting and unusual parallel for the two men's lives.
I liked the blend of historical fact with fiction, and the slightly strange technique of switching from first to third person in narration was a clever way of slightly changing the viewpoint through the telling of the tale.
One particular scene, where Frank reminisces over the view of stars and compares it to Speer's view of a bombing raid in the war, describes the discrepancy over what they view and marvel over as a 'misalignment'. It shows that although both subjects of this story are men on a new journey, their routes to that point are very different, raising the question of whether becoming 'another man' is truly possible...
This was a clever, captivating and beautiful book in terms of the settings it described and the characters and pathways they sought, or are seeking, cleverly layered together in the linking of past actions to future possibility and redemption.
Leslie Croxford's third novel, it is available now published by Paper and Ink. Find them at www.paperand.ink, and on Twitter as @paper_andink
Thank you to Kelly at Folk PR (www.folkpublicrelations.co.uk) for providing me with a copy to review and asking me to be a part of the blogtour. All opinions are honest and my own.
Review by Rich Simpson (@richreadalot on Twitter and Instagram), April 2021