Raymond and Hannah

From a new Canadian talent who will sweep you off your feet, a love story about a man and a woman irresistibly drawn to each other despite the impediments of geography and culture.

Meeting as strangers at a party, Raymond and Hannah stumble into a one-night stand with unexpected consequences. Together, they share a single, magical week before Hannah leaves for Jerusalem, where she is to spend nine months at an orthodox yeshiva learning Torah among students who disapprove of intermarriage. Raymond, a graduate student researching love in Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy, struggles with his loneliness and Hannah’s increasing religiosity.

As their separation comes to an end, Hannah questions whether she can live with a man who is not of her people, and Raymond’s hunger for human intimacy reaches a crisis point. He cheats on her; she begins to practice the Commandments. Still, neither can tolerate the other’s absence. Unable to make a clean break, they’re forced to try their insoluble problems in the city without solution, Jerusalem.

Acute and closely observed, Raymond and Hannah captures with gripping precision the thrill of new romance, the bitter doubt of longing, the inescapable urgings of love.

Excerpt from Raymond and Hannah

Preliminaries

“What are you here for?” Hannah asks Raymond.

“What am I here for? I was invited.”

“You know Paul.”

He nods. “And you?”

Hannah sips her champagne. “I’m here to meet men.”

A moment’s pause, while he casts a critical gaze across the offerings of the room. “What about Jim?”

“Which one’s Jim?”

He points to a hippie leaning on the radiator across the room, a large-bearded man in jeans and a check flannel shirt whose laughter drunkenly booms like dropped tympani over the light chatter. “I realize that I’ve just ruined it by pointing, but maybe it’s all for the best. It wouldn’t have worked out with Jim anyway. He’s married or something. How about Roger?” He bugs his eyes in the direction of a man in overalls. Hannah looks, arching her elegant neck to see the scruffy poseur affecting boredom beside the refrigerator. “The one in overalls. His name’s Roger. Actually I have no idea who he is. I made up the name.”

She frowns. “That one’s not bad. Excuse me.” She reaches over to the table for the champagne and refills their cups.

“My name’s Raymond,” he says.

“Hannah,” she replies.

They touch cups, and Raymond again scans the room, apparently displeased with its contents. “The pickings here really are a bit slim. I suggest we inspect the other rooms to see if this is all the night has to offer.”



From the Hardcover edition.

Reviews

“A marvel of exhilarating expression and literary economy … I don’t think I’ve ever had better vicarious sex — certainly not in an English Canadian novel. This is sex as voracity, fuelled by the birth of volcanic, insatiable love. Marche describes almost no specifics, yet burns up the pages with need and joy.”
The Globe and Mail

“It’s fair to ask what a love story might look like in the 21st century. Can one be written in our cynical age? The answer — a defintive yes — can be found in Raymond and Hannah, a smart and sexy first novel … Love, it seems, is not a race to the finish but a complicated ongoing struggle to achieve a union with another, body and soul — a remarkable insight from a young writer.”
The Toronto Star

“Remarkable … Marche has given himself the freedom to switch perspective, voice, tone and form … an approach perfectly suited to a love story that’s about contradiction and unresolvable conflict … [a] deft melding of the spiritual and the sensual, the poetic and the prosaic … Raymond and Hannah can’t help but recall the young Leonard Cohen.”
The Gazette (Montreal)

“Erotic, passionate … The writing is spare, yet pithy and by the end of it all, Marche’s pair of lovers become well-defined, evolved characters whose story plays out compellingly.”
The Chronicle-Herald (Halifax)

“Stephen Marche’s debut novel, bearing all the hallmarks of Leonard Cohen’s influence — poetic language, urban hipsterism, explicit sexuality, Jewish philosophy — is a rare creature, then. And judging by the book’s many strengths, it’s perhaps a loss to our literature that more young writers haven’t followed in Mr. Cohen’s footsteps… . Marche’s writing is both muscularly clear and infused with powerful poetic rhythms…”
Quill & Quire

“Seductive.”
The Globe and Mail

“The language [Marche] uses is so dazzling, so unsentimental… . He has produced a work that is both beautiful and confusing. In other words, an honest love story.”
The New York Times Book Review

“The novel offers utterly convincing glimpses of both characters’ lives. Especially full-bodied is the evocation of Hannah’s struggle to understand her Jewish identity, not just through study but through the city of Jerusalem itself. In this lushly romantic book, love between Jew and atheist gentile resembles the divided city, simultaneously impossible and actual.”
Publishers Weekly