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An international best seller: a vivid, masterly novel about a Flemish man who reconstructs his grandfather's story - his hopes, loves, and art, all disrupted by the First World War - from the unflinching notebooks he filled with pieces of his life. The life of Urbain Martien - artist, soldier, survivor of World War I - lies contained in two notebooks he left behind when he died in 1981. His grandson, a writer, retells his story, the notebooks giving him the impetus to imagine his way into the locked chambers of Urbain's memory. He vividly recounts a whole life: Urbain as the child of a lowly church painter, retouching his father's work; dodging death in a foundry; fighting in the war that altered the course of history; marrying the sister of the woman he truly loved; haunted by an ever-present reminder of the artist he had hoped to be and the soldier he was forced to become.



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