I have read the thirteenth book for the book challenge, In Another Life, by French author Marc Levy, translated by Ruth Marshall.
The story is about an art appraiser, Jonathan Gardner, who is engaged to be married in four weeks time to a painter, Anna Valton, with whom he lives. His best friend is Peter, an auctioneer for Christie’s in Boston. They both receive word that five paintings by the famous Russian painted Vladimir Radskin, who worked in England have surfaced in England and are being shown at a gallery and will be ready for auction. Jonathan is the world’s foremost authority on Radskin and he and Peter decide to go to London to see the paintings to see if Peter can get them for Christie’s in Boston. Jonathan is also curious because only four paintings are known and there has always been a rumour of the fifth but no one has ever seen a fifth.
In London, they meet the gallery owner, Clara, and Jonathan is immediately attracted to her. He helps her hang the four know paintings before they are readied for shipment to whomever will auction them, as Peter tries to convince the home office to let him auction the five paintings is Jonathan can authenticate them. Something strange happens when Jonathan and Clara touch each other. They each seem to be transported back in time to another era and experience a sort of déjà vu. The fifth painting does not show up at the gallery and Jonathan and Peter return to Boston, but immediately Jonathan knows the painting must be at Clara’s manor house so he returns to London and drives to Clara’s manor house.
At the manor house, Clara shows him the fifth painting which has been in her family. It is called Young Woman in a Red Dress. It is different from all of Radskin’s other paintings in that it is of a woman. He never painted women. And it uses the color red, which he never used. Jonathan has a difficult time authenticating it, too, because it has to signature, but under analysis in various countries it is found that the unique varnish obscures the signature and also obscures the face of the young woman, who looks exactly like Clara.
Through a long series of convoluted arguments, we find out that Clara is a direct descendent of Radskin. We also learn that Jonathan and Clara have known each other in a former life. We also discover that Anna and her mother are somehow related to Edward Langton, the patron of Radskin who moved in disgrace to America. They know Jonathan has fallen in love with Clara, who has come with the fifth painting to Boston for the sale, but Alice and her mother insist that Jonathan go through with his marriage to Anna. Alice poisons Clara but says she will give Jonathan the antidote after the ceremony, but there is no antidote, so Jonathan puts Clara’s blood into his own arm, thus ending his own life as well, so they will be together forever.
This book defies all logic and the jumps from one life to another are not made smoothly and one gets quite confused by it all. It’s quite a tragic book and I still don’t understand if Anna’s mother was also in a past life or not or if Anna was also in a past life. None of that is clear. So I would not recommend this slow, plodding, confusion book. It is not one of Levy’s best. Perhaps it lost something in the translation.