Knopf, Sep 7 2010, $26.95
Early in the first decade of the twentieth century, Serge Carrefax, a young boy resides with his family at Versoie House. There his father Simeon runs a school for the deaf as a means for him to experiment with his inventions that he cherishes on the kids. At the same dad invents and test, Serge and his older sister Sophie invent and test chemical experiments.
Years later, Serge journeys to a sanitarium in Bavaria seeking a chemical allegedly with healing prowess. Soon after that he enlists in the 104th Airborne Squadron, using cocaine while flying reconnaissance mission. Shot down over Germany, he becomes a POW but escapes only to be sent by the mysterious secret Empire Wireless Chain to Cairo. Over time Serge continues to encounter history’s oddest persona until he finally discovers the wavelength that makes him a perfect receiver of historical signals transmitted from time.
This is an odd superb historical “biographical” thriller that hooks the audience from the opening scene and keeps the reader’s full attention as Serge escorts fans through the early decades of the twentieth century. The story line is very complicated yet somehow also simplistic as there is a linear path throughout that a reader can focus on, but filled with all sorts of side roads as each year has sameness and differences to make it part of an era and unique unto itself. Tom McCarthy provides a thought provoking superb tour of the early twentieth century.