Sunday, March 4, 2012

Deceptions by Rebecca Frayn

Julian Poulter, the narrator of this novel, and Annie Wray have just announced their plans to marry when what should have been just another ordinary April day turns tragic. Annie’s twelve-year-old son, Dan, rides off to school and vanishes. An exhaustive investigation that leaves no stone unturned fails to yield a single clue about his whereabouts.

Three years later Annie is still holding fast to her stubborn belief that her son will come home someday, alive and well, but Julian just wants to put it all behind them and go on with their life. But Annie refuses to do that and instead pushes Julian out of her life.

Then, out of the blue, the phone rings. There is a social worker in Scotland on the other end of the line and he claims that Dan is with him, suffering from amnesia. Mother and son are soon reunited but Anne, wanting to give Dan time to readjust, refuses to notify the police of his return or let them investigate his story as Julian urges her to do. Instead, Annie spoils the boy, letting him sleep in late and lounge around playing with the Nintendo and Game Boy she bought him. She is determined not to screw up and risk losing her son again.

Julian begins to doubt that Dan is really Dan, certain things just don’t add up, and he suspects the amnesia is really a smoke screen. He gives Dan a bike as an early Christmas present and a peace offering, an apology for the tension between them in the days before he disappeared, and Dan immediately crashes it. This is odd—while the mind may forget the body never forgets things like riding a bike. And why are Dan’s blue eyes now brown? Annie insists he was given a drug to change their color and refuses to listen to Julian or contact the police.

Based on a true story, the real life, and still unsolved, disappearance of Nicholas Barclay in 1994 and the impostor, Frederic Bourdin, who tried to take his place, this gripping novel is hard to put down, it makes you feel a mother’s desperate hope and her lover’s frustration at her refusal to face hard truths.

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