The Visible World
This is a book about a love triangle, one woman loved by two men. It should be tense and fraught with conflict. Instead it is a gentle, lyrical read, the story told by the now-adult son as he struggles to understand, to find out what was the one secret his parents kept from him, that so affected them all. He grew up knowing that his parents fled the German invasion of their country. He knew the myths and songs of their Czechoslovakian homeland and spoke the language, yet he had no idea that his parents had been involved in the Resistance assassination of the Nazi Butcher of Prague, Reinhard Heydrich. Not only that, but his mother loved one of the assassins and was loved in return. That was a simple explanation for her grief. There was so much more to discover.
The story weaves its way through the son’s childhood recollections, visits to Prague as an adult, and the discovery and retelling of his mother’s love story up to the assassination. His father, the other man, stands on the edge of the story waiting until, finally, the girl he loves returns.
The novel has autobiographical elements. Slouka is Czech himself, and his mother did indeed love and lose a resistance fighter during the Second World War. His father and grandfather were also involved in the Czech resistance, but this is not autobiography, it is fiction. For those who do not know the story of the Czech resistance, then this novel is a good introduction. For those who like to try and fathom human relationships and that powerful emotion, love, this almost dispassionate retelling of a special love story is well worth reading.