How It All Had to Start
When you discover the love of your life too soon
Thomas Verbogt plays a Modiano-like game with the past. Through a description of a photograph and snatches of conversation, he summons a vanished past while sketching the outlines of a future that would never come to pass.
A walk in the park, the smell of ‘the day that has just begun’, a street musician’s melodies – for 65-year-old Thomas, this experience brings back memories of his bond with Licia at the age of six.
In a photograph, he sees himself with Licia and her parents, not long before her mother’s death. Thomas and Licia had just met. He hears the words they said to each other then, their certainty about how to build their friendship. They turned the world around them into a world of their own.
Their happiness was cut short when Licia’s father moved to Italy with his new partner and Licia. Eight years later, Licia invited Thomas to visit her in Rome. It had seemed unthinkable that anything would ever come between them, yet they find they’ve grown apart. They quarrel; they make love; and when they say good-bye, they both know the connection between them is still there. It’s just that there’s ‘much too much world’ around them.
They meet twice more, once when he’s nearing forty and for the last time when he’s sixty-three. Although the years bring a degree of resignation, his pain at the loss of what might have been stays with him all his life. It doesn’t take much to make the feeling flare up again, like a heath fire that never goes out.
Verbogt suggests more than he says outright. Thomas leaves many questions unanswered, sowing seeds of doubt about his reliability as a narrator and telling his story as if feeling his way in the dark. The reader must decide whether and how to fill in the gaps. The author’s keen awareness of light, colour and fragrance makes this delicate, dreamy novel a feast for the senses.