Margot Livesey's Banishing Verona
is the story of two people who enjoy an enchanted evening together, and then spend the next few weeks chasing each other across continents in order to decide if it's the real thing. Zeke Cafarelli is an endearingly timid, rather obsessive-compulsive housepainter who dismantles clocks, "laying out the springs and coils in careful sequence and putting them back together," in order to gain the courage to leave his house. Verona MacIntyre is a seven-months-pregnant radio talk show host who goes back and forth between wanting to rescue her wayward brother and simply wanting to rescue herself. The backdrop for this ethereal novel is London and Boston, and Livesey does a masterful job of creating characters out of the cities and places that house her protagonists.
Banishing Verona is a love story at its core; however, Zeke and Verona are seen together in only a few scenes. Instead, Livesey tells the story from each character's perspective, overlapping time and place yet creating entirely unique situations. Each event is described with such precision that even the most mundane tasks take on a sense of importance that feels almost palpable. ("Then he noticed the red light on the phone, blinking ... He raised the receiver and heard only the usual high-pitched note; he had no idea what to do next.")
While her attention to detail may seem a bit excessive at times, Livesey is undeniably adept at creating a vivid, colorful world whose only purpose is to exist as a backdrop for Zeke and Verona's search for self, and for each other. Even secondary characters, like Zeke's employee Emmanuel and Verona's brother Henry, are only there to accentuate the good (and the bad) in our hero and heroine. Still, the underlying message here is that no one ever really knows anyone else, or as Zeke says, "Only years later ... did he grasp that even at their most vivid ... his thoughts were invisible, not only to teachers and tyrants, but to everyone..." What keeps us reading this dreamy novel until the very last page is the hope that people exist who are willing to take a chance on what can never truly be a sure thing. --Gisele Toueg
From Publishers Weekly
Livesey's lovely fifth novel tells the story of Zeke, a 29-year-old London housepainter with "the face of a Raphael angel" and an autism-like difficulty relating to other people, and Verona, who shows up at a house Zeke is working on, very pregnant and claiming to be the owners' niece. After they spend a night together, Verona disappears, leaving a pair of painter's coveralls nailed to the floor. Neither can forget the other. As Zeke goes on a hunt for the mysterious Verona, she calls him—from Boston, where she has, in a slightly far-fetched turn of events, gone to hunt down her blithely amoral brother, Henry, to convince him to repay his creditors, who have begun threatening her. Zeke heeds her instructions to meet her there, only to spend days alone in a hotel room as she contacts him from New York and then from London, when, Henry's financial matters settled, she abruptly goes home. Devastated, he returns to London, ignores her calls (even burying his answering machine to fully banish her), but finally gives in to the powerful connection he felt the moment he met her. The off-kilter chronology of their alternating stories works well, and both Zeke and Verona have just enough quirks to be endearing without being implausible; the supporting characters are similarly well realized. As Livesey (Eva Moves the Furniture
) gently probes the depths of longing, betrayal and forgiveness, her gift for creating sublimely unexpected sentences is abundantly on display: Zeke's "emotions were swirling and scattering like leaves in a playground on a windy day; he glimpsed joy, rage, hope, amazement, jealousy, frustration and exaltation flashing by." "You're the opposite of Narcissus," an old girlfriend of Zeke's tells him. Moments like these are ghosts that dance in the reader's vision long after the photographer's flashbulb has popped.
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