Stewart O’Nan is the rare writer whose novels span an incredible range, from the final days of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s life to a family whose world is shattered when their daughter goes missing. They are, in the words of the New York Times, “as remarkable for their precise, economical language and depth of characterization as for the fact that each is as different from its predecessor, in style, tone and narrative approach, as if it had come from a different author.”
With City of Secrets (Viking; on sale Apr. 26, $22), O’Nan ventures into the moral thriller and the noir, delivering a novel about the Jewish underground resistance movement in post-World War II Jerusalem.
City of Secrets follows Brand, a Latvian Jew who was the only member of his family to survive the concentration camps. Like tens of thousands of refugees with no homes to go back to, Brand makes his way to Palestine, relying on the underground resistance movement to avoid the British Mandate authorities.
He becomes part of a cell linked to the Haganah, and in exchange for his service, gives him a new identity, and a taxi to drive as a cover. He spends his days shuttling tourists to and from the sites in Jerusalem, and his nights with Eva, a widow and fellow member of his cell, who inspires him to fully commit to the revolution and channel the bravery and fearlessness he had before the war.
As Brand gets embedded deeper and deeper in the movement, he fears he is being used, and by the time he realizes the truth, it comes too late and the tragedy that ensues changes history.
Stewart O’Nan is an exceptional stylist, and City of Secrets is a taut, action-packed novel that evokes the intrigue of Graham Greene and the inner moral conflict in Joseph Conrad, both of whom O’Nan cites as inspiration.
O’Nan is the author of 15 previous novels, including West of Sunset, The Odds, Emily Alone, Songs for the Missing, Last Night at the Lobster, A Prayer for the Dying, and Snow Angels. His 2007 novel Last Night at the Lobster was a national bestseller and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. He was born and raised in Pittsburgh, where he lives with his family.
O’Nan will be discussing his book at Books and Books, 265 Aragon Ave. in Coral Gables, on May 2 at 8 p.m.