One of them loses a fortune, but that’s not quite true, because there is luxury, still, so this is not like Jade Chang’s The Wangs vs. the World. One of them loses a lover, but that’s not quite true, because the lover is still hanging around, just not part of the everyday in the same way anymore, so this is not like Gail Godwin’s Evenings at Five. One of them is alone in Paris, but that’s not quite true either, because being alone simply creates the opportunity for that person to invite company, so this is not like a Mavis Gallant short story.
They are pained. Whether because of the love they feel (as expressed in the exchange above) or the love they do not feel.
That kind of distinction should make a difference. It should be the hinge upon which a story swings.
But a Patrick deWitt’s story is the hinge itself: all about the mechanism of connection with none of the pleasure of connecting.
Characters talk and talk and talk (sometimes at a distance, other times in close quarters) but their worlds are increasingly silent and barren.
“Mr. Baker was a mouselike man, which isn’t to say he behaved as one, but that he truly did look very much like a mouse. Sometimes he looked like an angry mouse, sometimes wise; on this day, as he sat waiting for Frances to arrive, he resembled a mouse who wished he were another mouse.”