The Two Hotel Francforts

5 of 19
The Two Hotel Francforts
272 pages; Bloomsbury
Set in Lisbon in the summer of 1940, The Two Hotel Francforts, David Leavitt's lean, stylish new novel, unfurls like a classic Hollywood film, crackling with intrigue and illicit romance. One almost expects Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman to glide into view.

While awaiting passage to the United States, two couples meet by chance: Pete and Julia Winters, buttoned-up American expatriates ambivalent about returning home, and Edward and Iris Freleng, bohemians with a penchant for absinthe-fueled conversation and sexual peccadilloes. Pete, the narrator, is instantly drawn to the magnetic Edward; the two men soon steal off together for a tryst. As their affair blossoms and then wanes, Pete realizes that Edward is a bundle of anxieties and that his demands on the domineering Iris have reached a breaking point. Fragile Julia wilts into herself, all too aware of her own vulnerability as a Jew perilously close to Hitler's armies. While Europe teeters, the expatriates drink and dance their way through Lisbon's casinos and grand hotels. 

The author of The Lost Language of Cranes employs coolly elegant prose to evoke the era's glamour and dread: "In the artificial gloom, women's earrings winked like coins; the pinpoint gleam of cigarettes might have been torchlight." He transports the reader to a wayward world racked by historic upheaval and intimate demons. 
— Hamilton Cain