The true story of a love affair between two extraordinary women becomes a literary tour de force in this novel that recreates the surrealist movement in Paris and the horrors of the two world wars with incandescence and intimacy.
... a sleek, lush romance... [Never Anyone But You is] a deftly conventional treatment of a stubbornly unconventional subject. Thomson’s [novel] is an extraordinary and rollicking tale, occasionally slowed down by his need to make sure that readers are getting the message.
The fact that Rupert Thomson has centered Never Anyone But You, his novel about the pair, on that 40-plus-year relationship suggests that his imagination was fired by a queer intimacy that spanned two world wars and was intertwined with a highly original, often collaborative Surrealist artistic practice in which identities were fluid and ever-changing. This turns out to be a false assumption. Thomson, the author of 10 previous novels, many of them either thrillers or incorporating the elements of thrillers, doesn’t appear to be much interested in those aspects of Cahun and Moore. He isn’t obliged to be, of course, although one might well wonder why so much rich raw material has been left on the table—or signal that Cahun and Moore’s relationship is at the heart of this novelistic transformation of history when it isn’t. Thomson offers, instead, two well brought-up young ladies who say things like 'What’s gender, anyway?' ... Thomson’s engagement with Cahun’s work is slight, and his engagement with Moore’s nearly nonexistent ... it’s the war and the acts of resistance that nearly got Cahun and Moore killed that bring his best writing to the fore. Once Cahun and Moore are arrested by the Gestapo, the narrative comes alive; the scenes are tense, particular and embodied ... While one can hardly blame him for his preferences, one might wonder why he chose to address the rather extraordinary entire arc of lives in which he was only truly interested in one tense episode.
Thomson has created a taut, magnificently controlled novel about creativity and personal survival that is a lucid reflection of the period it describes, as the surface of a surrealist picture is lucid... There are baldly factual passages that make you wonder why he has cast it as fiction at all, but then he will surprise you with the limpid clarity of an observation... Like Cahun’s photomontages, it looks like life, but it’s not life, exactly. Only art can achieve this degree of realism.