The Swiss Affair
We all have stories. We all have moments in our lives when we have laughed, loved and lost. The thing is, most of our stories simply aren’t interesting enough to those not immediately involved to be worthy of a book. I felt that was the case with this tale as well.
Mary Sue Dunn – oops that’s Hadley Dunn – surprises no one as much as herself when she decides to quit being the best martyr – sorry, big sister/daughter – in the world and go to Switzerland for a year abroad. Mom, dad and baby brother will just have to make do for one year without her. Once in Switzerland, home to lovely landscapes, Hadley meets Kristina, a fun loving, beautiful Danish girl who becomes Hadley’s dearest friend. Kristina is everything Hadley wishes she could be – lovely, mysterious, sophisticated, clever. Well, Hadley is all those things (except for sophisticated) but she’s extremely modest about it.
All through the fall Hadley follows Kristina and the other foreign exchange students (apparently the school doesn’t include anyone actually from Switzerland) across the postcard perfect landscape of the town of Lausanne, charmingly perched on the banks of Lake Geneva. As Kristina tells Hadley the delicious secret of her forbidden love Hadley cultivates a clandestine lover of her own. With Kristina’s charm and world wise manner and Hadley’s naiveté and winning innocence it would seem the duo are unstoppable in love as well as sightseeing.
Then tragedy strikes on the night of Hadley’s birthday. Kristina was at first simply late to the party. Her excuses given via telephone irritated Hadley who found the celebrations quite lacking without her bosom buddy there. Words were exchanged and the evening became an alcohol fueled fest of mediocre decisions. Morning brings the sobering news of Kristina’s death and Hadley’s year in Switzerland suddenly and startlingly changes course.
Everything about this tale feels yawningly realistic except Mary Sue, I mean, Hadley. She goes from being a shy, quiet homebody to a breathtaking ingénue with barely a hiccup. Her eye catching waifish, appearance, her sweetness and goodness, her innocence all combine to create a creature that is irresistible to men and women but too sweet to really pick up on her own irresistibility. And perhaps that would have worked if her year abroad hadn’t been so derivative and dull. I will sum it up for you: Switzerland is as lovely as the pictures portray it. Hadley and her friends drink a lot, something I am sure those who have been to uni will shake their heads over since that just isn’t absolutely the most typical thing to do while in college. They get together and dramatize their lives and loves over coffee and or drinks. Something bad happens and they all realize how serious life can be. Anyone who has spent four years’ worth of their parents hard earned money on a degree that will never earn them any recognizes the scenario.
I think the love affairs and the twist at the end regarding Kristina’s death are what are meant to make the tale interesting but I saw the twist coming a mile away and the men are such clichés that they didn’t add anything of substance to the tale. It’s not that anything I was reading was bad, it was all just bland. And in reading the difference between the two is on occasion shockingly minimal. This is one of those occasions.
Normally when I finish a book I ask myself what I would have changed to enjoy it more. In this case I couldn’t really answer that question. It wasn’t that anything about it was so poorly done that it needed reworking. The simple fact was that the tale contained within was really more a cocktail party story than a riveting novel.