Toni Davidson – The Alpine Casanovas (4 stars)

A tense and intuitive exploration of Vietnamese identity in the West

Toni Davidson – The Alpine Casanovas

(Freight Books)

Dual protagonists, Amerasian Beat and Eurasian Quyn, live in different countries but share a common heritage – both half Vietnamese, neither was raised by their Vietnamese parents or knows their mother tongue.

Beat is a disillusioned actor, typecast in generic Asian roles and living a debauched lifestyle until he decides to fake his own death and isolate himself in a mountain chalet. Raised in a barn by his hooch-swilling father, Quyn lives quietly in the mountains, a caretaker to wealthy holiday retreats.

The story flashes through their pasts, from youngsters first made aware of their different appearance to adults who feel like tourists to their own culture. Toni Davidson – whose past novels include the seminal Scar Culture and My Gun Was As Tall As Me – skillfully creates a subtle and intuitive exploration of what happens to identity and heritage when war fragments a race across the globe.

The prose is lyrical but never protracted. Terse phrases capture the danger and beauty of the mountains, the commotion of Saigon and the hedonism of parties, while the men’s outlooks favour the pragmatic rather than the emotional. As their worlds hurtle towards each other Davidson builds the ever-present tension into a blistering finale.

Out Mon 14 Sep, published by Freight Books.

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