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Book review: "Sardinian Silver," by Jason Pettus
Date of Review: 
Mar.25.2009
Published Work: 
Reviewer: 
Jason Pettus
Source: 
Chicago Center for Literature and Photography

It's a fantastic short read, to tell you the truth, like discovering a lost Graham Greene story or something...

Set in 1961, it's the story of young Brit Arthur Fraser, who in a bout of restlessness has recently accepted a slightly disreputable job as a jet-setting tourist-company rep; his job during these "Swinging London" times is essentially to laze around various unknown yet trendy hotspots around the world, so that when customers of his travel agency show up for their vacations, he can help them find the cool unknown neighborhood pubs and whatever other prurient little things they're looking for. This gives Arthur the excuse, then, to spend his days essentially bumming from one local venue to the next, drinking and flirting with the natives, hanging out with his fellow adventure-craving early-twenties rival tour reps; and along the way, he of course falls in love with various women, has sex with various women, breaks up with various women, and all the rest of the drama you would expect from a good-looking 24-year-old suddenly living full-time on a desolated Mediterranean island....

The fact is that Wright takes his time here with his story, making plot a dim second to the mere establishment of time and place and mood, gently exploring the back alleys and side daytrips of this remarkable island with a kind of grace and ease that only comes with maturity. And in this, astute readers might be reminded as well of the "Alexandria Quartet" by Lawrence Durrell, which once again was written in the same period this book is set; like those four short novels all set in Egypt, this too really relishes the time it spends with eccentric locals, really takes the effort to try to make you feel what it was actually like to be in this particular exotic location at this particular moment in history...

Like I said before, this novel is without a doubt as good as one of Graham Greene's minor works, and in fact could easily be mistaken for some forgotten Greene tale that's been gathering dust in some attic trunk for decades...