Isn't it great when you find a series that you just have to read all of. So it is with the 'Lunch With...' series, by Derek Hansen. Unlike many other series', you don't actually have to read this series in order, which is just as well, because I started with  the last one - 'Lunch with a Soldier', then moved onto number three - 'Lunch with the Stationmaster', and now number two. Next is number one - 'Lunch with Mussolini'. Each of these novels is completely self contained, the link and familiarity between them due to the same four men meeting weekly in an Italian restaurant in Sydney to tell their stories and pass time together. And eat beautiful Italian food! How incredibly civilised! And what stories these ageing gentlemen tell! Each book is great story telling, the author has a wonderful gift in the art of telling a story. The tension and hook of each story is trying to figure out whether it is the narrator's life story or if it is really a made up story, or even a mixture of the two.

This fluidity with the truth is maddening in this particular tale! The story of the General is narrated by Ramon, an exile from Argentina. You never know at all how much is Ramon's story and how much isn't, even at the end there are doubts. But don't let this slight annoyance detract you from the brilliance of the story telling.

Ramon's story begins during a terrible period in Argentina's recent history. A small boy witnesses his parents being taken away, betrayed by an ex-lover of the mother. The parents are never seen again, The ex-lover 'escapes' to Australia, renames himself Eduardo, and begins a new life. Running parallel to this story is that of a young Dutch man who makes the long journey to his childhood home in Indonesia, taken over by the Japanese during the war. Eventually he and his family also land in Sydney, where inevitably the paths of the two men and their families cross. As does the third path of the young child abandoned during his parents' arrests. It is perhaps a little contrived with a not entirely satisfactory ending, but still compelling story telling. Not the best in the series, but still worth a read. 

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