The Strange Journey of Alice Pendelbury

Written by Marc Levy
Review by G. J. Berger

Late December, 1950: London is a dreary place and time for beautiful Alice. At age 39, she is still single and childless. Her friends convince her to join them on a fun day trip to the south coast’s Brighton, its tourist attractions, and the carnival on the pier. There, a fortuneteller says Alice must travel to Turkey, where she’ll encounter a succession of six important men and recover her forgotten past.

Bachelor artist Ethan Daldry rents another flat across the landing of the same floor. Daldry’s father suddenly dies and leaves Daldry a tidy sum. He offers to escort Alice to Istanbul and even pay all expenses. Alice’s English parents perished in WWII, and her perfume-making business can be put on hold. Until now, Daldry has been a grouchy neighbor, but she accepts his generous offer.

Once in the strange, but fascinating Turkey, Alice spots buildings she has seen in frequent nightmares. Many odors are familiar to her keen sense of smell. Alice and Daldry, aided by a local guide, have a series of interesting discoveries. Daldry returns to London alone, and Alice stays to continue her search.

Levy tells much of the story through Alice’s dreams, long stretches of dialogue, letters Alice writes to a London friend, and some 30 pages of letters between Daldry and Alice. The people, places, vehicles and language of 1950s England/Turkey all ring true. Easy to read and often engaging, this would have been a more absorbing tale with less summarizing in the letters, dreams and conversations. Written in French and translated, this light romance was first published in 2011.