From postpunk Brighton to revolutionary Angola, an incredible coming-of-age story that stretches across nations and decades, reminding us what it really means to come home.
It's 1988 at the University of Sussex, where kids sport Mohawks and light up to the otherworldly sounds of the Cocteau Twins, as conversation drifts from structuralism to Thatcher to the bloody Labour students. Hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, David Heller has taken a job as a live-in aide to current quadriplegic and former playboy Hans Bromwell - in part to extend his stay studying abroad, but, in truth, he's looking to escape his own family, still paralyzed by the death of his younger sister 10 years on.
When David moves into the Bromwell house, his life becomes quickly entwined with those of Hans; his alcoholic sister, Elizabeth; and her beautiful, fatherless daughter as they navigate their new roles as fallen aristocracy. As David befriends the Bromwells, the details behind the family's staggering fall from grace are slowly revealed: how Elizabeth's love affair with a Portuguese physician carried the young English girl right into the bloody battlefields of colonial Africa, where an entire continent bellowed for independence, and a single event left a family broken forever.
A sweeping debut by a seasoned political reporter, written in prose as lush and evocative as it is deeply funny, No. 4 Imperial Lane artfully shifts through time, from the high politics of embassy backrooms and the bloody events of a ground war to the budding romance found in pot-filled dorm rooms and those unforgettable moments when childhood gives way to becoming an adult.
Reminiscent of Nick Hornby and Alan Hollinghurst, here is a book about the intersection of damaged lives, a book that asks whether it is possible for an unexpected stranger to piece a family back together again.