From Publishers Weekly
In a striking fusion of cultural journeys, Booker Prize finalist Cartwright (Look At It This Way) jump-cuts between past and present, Africa and Europe, the gentle Masai and a French-Jewish family who met a horrifying fate in the Nazi death camps. In the late 1930s,Claudia Cohn-Casson had been a dedicated anthropologist gathering data on Masai customs when an epic lion hunt she staged for filming ended in tragedy. Two Masai warriors lay slain; cameramen gloated over the carnage, snapping "fantastic" footage. Months later, this colonial cruelty found a parallel in Nazi barbarism as Claudia was seized in Paris and deported to Auschwitz with her brother and eminent father, a "collabo" doctor who thought himself safe. Narrating these events as well as the present-day action is screenwriter Tim Curtiz, touring the heart of Africa to demystify Claudia's life and death in a film intended to re-create many truths ("we are all Jews, all Nazis, all humans capable of anything. The movie must speak to everybody... "). But Curtiz works for a rich, sybaritic and eccentric producer who considers casting his transvestite mistress as Claudia. Or will he cast Julia Roberts, with Mel Gibson as Claudia's other, Anglo lover? Yesterday and today flow seamlessly into one another as the novel replays events in an ongoing now, like a movie that unreels, dreamlike, before the spellbound spectator.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Journalist Tim Curtiz journeys to Africa to write a screenplay about Claudia Cohn-Casson, an anthropologist who worked with the Masai and was betrayed to the SS when she returned to France near the end of World War II. In Kenya, Curtiz discovers three elderly people whose lives have been touched by Cohn-Casson: an English adventurer and aviator who had been her lover, a dowager who had observed this relationship, and the Masai laibon,
or tribal leader, whose brother was executed by the British, perhaps because of his relationship with the anthropologist. Woven throughout Curtiz's account of his research and self-examination are two other stories. The first could be perceived either as Curtiz's finished screenplay or as Cohn-Casson's actual biography. This tale of deception, misunderstanding, and betrayal over cataclysmic moral issues is juxtaposed against the second story, concerning S. O. Letterman, an over-the-hill Hollywood producer who is bankrolling and casting the film. Letterman uses this position to seduce a young French actress, who has a few secrets of her own. A fascinating, multitextured novel. George Needham