The literary and film device of the flashback and/or flash forward often works well provided there are linkage and revelation.
In the last novel I reviewed here Bad Relations it worked particularly well.
In William Boyd’s latest The Blue Afternoon it works less well.
The story begins in Los Angeles (1936), moves to Manila (1903) and finishes in Lisbon (1936).
An architect Kay Fischer, a divorcee, is surveying a house she is commissioned to build when an old man called Salvador Corriscant turns up out of the blue to tell her he is her real father.
She believed her father to be Hugh Paget, whom her mother Annaliese married, prior to Klaus Fischer.
Corriscant was a brilliant surgeon in the Philippines just after its occupation by the USA.
His career stalls as he falls in love with the wife of an American soldier, Delphine Sieveorane, with whom he plans to elope.
Chief Police Officer Paton Bobby puts an end to this as Corriscant is charged with the murder of two American soldiers and Delphine’s husband Jepson.
Kay accompanies Corriscant to Lisbon where he re-meets Delphine, now an old lady.
The murders are unresolved.
You have to admire the diversity and originality of a Boyd novel.
His last one – Love is Blind – featured a blind Victorian Scottish piano tuner.
Boyd can move easily from location to location, from time period to time period, from genre to genre and is always readable.
The problem here is that the long middle section in Manila raised issues that were unresolved.
French films often successfully do this but here it left an unsatisfactory after-taste.