“A wonderful fact to reflect upon … when I enter a great city by night, that every one of those darkly clustered houses encloses its own secret,” Charles Dickens muses in “A Tale of Two Cities.” The same voyeurism inspires Israeli author Eshkol Nevo’s popular novel “Three Floors Up,” available in English in October.
Behind the cold, steel-reinforced doors that separate the living spaces in an Israeli apartment high-rise, three loosely connected, first-person confessional narratives unfold.
Arnon is a retired army officer living with his wife and daughter. Despite clear warnings that their neighbor is either showing signs of dementia or possibly playing pedophilia-inspired games, Arnon carelessly leaves his daughter with him one afternoon to avoid being late to a spinning class.
Then there’s Hani. Married and the mother of two, Hani has penned an emotional letter to her friend in America, detailing her dissatisfaction with her aloof, financially successful husband. Her account takes an unexpected turn when her fugitive brother-in-law appears.
Devora, a retired judge, leaves a parting phone message for her late husband on the old answering machine. Mulling the unfortunate events that left her estranged from her son, Adar, while her husband was still alive, Devora describes a bizarre journey to Tel Aviv.
Nevo has noticeably switched gears, embracing a philosophical tangent as he contemplates the nature of fate as a means to connect the novel. Excessive details are at times disruptive. Yet none of these distractions will slow down the reader. The prose sings in places and “Three Floors Up” is difficult to put down. JN