The Travels of Daniel Ascher

Image of The Travels of Daniel Ascher: A Novel
Release Date: 
May 26, 2015
Other Press
Reviewed by: 

"special style of storytelling . . ."

In her debut novel, The Travels of Daniel Ascher, Déborah Lévy-Bertherat takes the reader on a voyage of discovery and captures the fears and frustrations that go with that discovery.

Her heroine, Helene, is an archaeology student, who is the grandniece of Daniel Ascher, pseudonym: H. R. Sanders, the author of a popular Black Insignia series of books. Helene has never paid much attention to the fame of her great-uncle nor to the books that he has written, until her boyfriend, Guillaume, a fan of the series and the author, learns of her connection and introduces her to the series.

Throughout the story Helene’s curiosity about Daniel and his many travels to, and writing about, unconventional places, begins to grow. Her curiosity about history in general leads her to question events in Daniel’s life, and she follows the trail of crumbs to learn more about this man. The trail leads her to America where she visits distant relatives and gathers more clues toward unraveling the mystery of Daniel’s history.

As so often happens when we start to dig into places unfamiliar to us, we might turn over rocks that should not be disturbed. And so it happens to Helene. Lévy-Bertherat cleverly provides clues to Daniel’s life story, while at the same time making Helene question her motives for pursuing this line of inquiry.

There are moments when the story seems broken, and yet it still holds warmth. It is a tale of finding oneself amongst the rubble of family and discovering that more often than not, what is seen and even experienced is not necessarily what is true, especially where family is concerned.

This is an unconventional book in style, there is nothing to distinguish dialogue—no quotation marks, no dialogue paragraphs, and at times the dialogue between two people is run together—and yet this is not as distracting as one might expect. The story is so engaging, that one gets past the irregular and is caught up in the story itself.

Often, a story that is translated from one language to another truly does lose something in the translation; however, Adriana Hunter is to be congratulated on a thorough job of translating this from the French without losing the movement or emotion of the story.

Structurally, this is a small book, easily consumed in a short span of time. If Lévy-Bertherat continues with her special style of storytelling, her future books will be welcome in anyone’s library.