Excerpt from The Valley of Unknowing by Philip Sington, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Valley of Unknowing

by Philip Sington

The Valley of Unknowing by Philip Sington
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Dec 2012, 304 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Sarah Sacha Dollacker

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


We left the building. Since my last visit a large hoarding had been erected outside, bearing a slogan in red capitals:

TO CYCLE EACH DAY
IS THE SOCIALIST WAY !


Ignoring this inspirational statement, we crossed the square on foot and continued to Wilsdrufferstrasse, a bland, well-swept avenue of sandy-hued apartment blocks and a sprinkling of shops. Schilling led me into a pedestrian alley where the wares of various retail outlets – reconditioned watches, alarm clocks, lace, tableware – were on display in free-standing glass cabinets. By now I was expecting a quiet tete-a-tete in a shadowy drinking hole, but the establishment Schilling was anxious to show me turned out to be a glass-fronted Eiscafé that went by the name of Tutti Frutti. Inside, melting under bright lights, were three varieties of ice cream. Behind the counter sat an impressive-looking coffee machine, but there was no coffee to go with it; so Schilling and I each bought a cone and perched on a pair of stools, catching glances from the children and bleach-blonde matrons who made up the rest of the clientele.

Schilling started in with a series of routine questions concerning my health (tolerable), my work (officially ongoing, actually dormant), my social life (satisfactory, if repetitive), responding to my answers with earnest nods of the head, slow licks of his ice cream and frequent glances out of the window. All the while, the document wallet sat tightly wedged between his thighs, like a bomb that needed pressure to keep from going off.

Eventually silence fell.

'Michael, what's the matter? You're acting strangely. It's making my stomach hurt.'

Schilling blushed. 'I'm sorry. Paul's coming down this weekend. At least he said he was. You know how he . . .'

Yes, I did know. Paul was Schilling's son, now twenty-two, the sole issue from a brief and disastrous marriage to the lovely Magdalena Bonner – her post-nuptial loveliness proving skin deep, as I'd suspected it would. Schilling loved his son, but the best I could manage was to pity him, stuck as he was with a selfish, materialistic mother and an absent father. Paul brought to Schilling little these days but grief. After his military service, which he had been lucky to complete without a court martial, he had abandoned the maternal flat in central Berlin and taken up with a pack of dropouts in Pankow.

I would have taken less interest in the whole sorry business had I not felt in some degree responsible. The truth is that Magdalena Bonner would never have taken the slightest interest in a bookish myopic like Michael had it not been for his connection to The Orphans of Neustadt. For a good few years the success of that book lent us both an aura of glamour and distinction; qualities that more than made up for any deficiency in looks. I'd had just enough experience with women to be on my guard against mercenary love, but poor Schilling who, as far as I could tell, had never had a proper girlfriend (and only a limited number of sexual encounters, mostly of the fumbling, outdoor variety) was easy prey.

'Does Paul have a job yet?' I asked.

'Oh, yes. Caretaker, at some sort of gun club.'

'A gun club? Is that wise?'

'Don't joke. I just hope he sticks with it. You know, until something . . .'

Until something better comes along was the unarticulated sentiment; one we both knew was best left uncritiqued.

On the other side of the street a man in a grey anorak was taking a long time lighting a cigarette. Schilling watched him intently, his tongue frozen on the rim of his ice cream.

'Someone you know?' I asked. (Such instances of paranoia always irritated me.)

My question went unanswered. The stranger discarded his match and walked away. Schilling's tongue returned to duty. 'By the way, Bruno. There's something I'd like your opinion on.'

Reprinted from The Valley of Unknowing by Philip Sington. Copyright (c) 2012 by Philip Sington. With the permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company. All rights reserved.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Socialist Realism

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The End of Eddy
    The End of Eddy
    by Edouard Louis
    The End of Eddy has been a publishing phenomenon in Édouard Louis' native France, where it...
  • Book Jacket: If We Were Villains
    If We Were Villains
    by M L. Rio
    22 out of 28 of our reviewers rated If We Were Villains four or five stars, giving it an overall ...
  • Book Jacket: The Islamic Enlightenment
    The Islamic Enlightenment
    by Christopher de Bellaigue
    In this comprehensive and well-researched history, de Bellaigue examines the evolution of Islamic ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

A richly layered novel of hearts broken seemingly beyond repair and then bound by a stunning act of human devotion.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Scribe of Siena
    by Melodie Winawer

    Equal parts transporting love story, meticulously researched historical fiction, and compelling time-travel narrative.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Chalk Pit

The Chalk Pit:
A Ruth Galloway Mystery

A string of murders takes Ruth underground in the newest book in the series.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T W Don't M A R

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
Modal popup -