Veronica is late, and Julian is increasingly convinced she won’t ever come home. To pass the time, he improvises a story about trees to coax his stepdaughter, Daniela, to sleep. He has made a life as a literature professor, developing a novel about a man tending to a bonsai tree on the weekends. He is a narrator, an architect, a chronicler of other people’s stories. But as the night stretches on before him, and the hours pass with no sign of Veronica, Julian finds himself caught up in the slipstream of the story of his life – of their lives together. What combination of desire and coincidence led them here, to this very night? What will the future – and possibly motherless – Daniela think of him and his stories? Why tell stories at all?
The Private Lives of Trees, Alejandro Zambra’s second novel, now published in the UK for the first time in a revised translation by Megan McDowell, overflows with his signature wit and his gift for crafting short novels that manage to contain whole worlds.