Set in Europe in the aftermath of World War I and Los Angeles in the 1950s, The Verdun Affair is about a lonely young man, a beautiful widow, and the amnesiac soldier whose puzzling case binds them together even as it tears them apart.
Dybek doesn’t use [flashbacks] sparingly... as a result, The Verdun Affair overheats and explodes ... This is a story of operatic complexity, narrated in many voices, rich in imagery, but sometimes poor in discipline ... [the novel's] strained images are accompanied by a certain portentousness of tone.
[A] haunting, vividly cinematic tale ... Dybek’s poignant tale of the harsh realities of war juxtaposed with a dreamlike love story will linger with readers in the same manner as Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient.
I love historical novels because I want fiction to transport me—to tell me something I don’t know, to make me imagine the past. Dybek transported me with Verdun. His writing stunned me with the way it captures the feel of a time and place. I tell him this, and that it reminds me of another story: a novella by Mark Helprin, Ellis Island, that I read long ago but have never forgotten. I could not believe Helprin could have written this without experiencing it, the way I can’t believe Dybek wasn’t in Verdun after the Great War.