The Beautiful Truth, by Belinda Seaward
The Beautiful Truth
Catherine, an astrologer, knows little about her father, a Polish exile who vanished when she was 12. Having settled for a joyless existence with a maths professor, Dominic, in Cambridge, Catherine begins her journey when an American film-maker brings her to Poland to document her family’s tragic history. The double narrative of The Beautiful Truth switches back and forth from the present to wartime Poland, deftly highlighting the suffering of a nation that bore the brunt of atrocity from both sides. Catherine’s journey is shadowed by the story of her father, Janek, and his love, Krystyna. Their fight for survival is contrasted with the malaise that envelops the lives of the contemporary characters. At times the dichotomies in the British writer Belinda Seaward’s third novel are so stark that they are unconvincing. As Catherine struggles to leave her selfish, abusive partner for the kind and empathetic Konrad, the reader is left wondering why. This is not because we are denied access to the protagonist’s thoughts; there is in fact too much explaining of motivation, which ultimately slows down the narrative and distracts from the kernel of the book, a perennial theme of literature: the past is never dead; it’s not even past.