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The Travels of Daniel Ascher

Déborah Lévy-Bertherat; Adriana Hunter (translator)

Other Press, May 2015

Déborah Lévy-Bertherat's The Travels of Daniel Ascher is the enthralling story of one young woman’s determination to uncover the truth hidden in a history imbued with fiction.  Hidden family secrets, deceptive romances, and an exciting journey through the streets of Paris all fuel the momentum of Déborah Lévy-Bertherat’s richly imagined debut novel, making for an ideal summer read.

The Plot

Upon arriving in Paris to study archeology, all Hélène Roche knows of her elusive great-uncle Daniel is that his appearances at family reunions are few and brief, that he’s a seasoned world traveler, and that his wildly successful series of adventure novels for young people, "The Black Insignia", is beloved by all except her.  As rumors circulate that the twenty-fourth volume of series will be the last, Hélène meets Guillaume, a fellow classmate and ardent fan of her great-uncle’s work, and her curiosity is piqued.  Why did the famous author assign himself the nom de plume, H. R. Sanders?  What inspired the many adventures of "The Black Insignia"’s valiant and fearless protagonist, Peter Ashley-Mill?  Together, Hélène and Guillaume embark on a quest for answers about her great-uncle’s exotic travels and his distant childhood spent in Occupied France, to piece together clues about his obscured past.  As memories are excavated, relationships are tested and Hélène realizes she may need an explanation for more than just her great-Uncle Daniel’s clandestine life.

In The Travels of Daniel Ascher, Déborah Lévy-Bertherat brilliantly shapes a mystery set in present-day Paris, while also providing an honest glimpse into the tragic decimation of France during the Occupation.  With charming illustrations woven throughout, this slight but powerful novel intimately examines the multifaceted role that fiction plays in our lives, and abounds with grace and sympathy.

About the author

Déborah Lévy-Bertherat lives in Paris, where she teaches comparative literature at the École Normale Supérieure. She has translated Lermontov’s A Hero of Our Time and Gogol’s Petersburg Stories into French. The Travels of Daniel Ascher is her first novel.

Praise for The Travels of Daniel Ascher

"A startling, beautifully written novel that starts as a stroll in the Luxembourg Gardens andends in a plunge into the dark, mysterious world of wartime Paris. A real thriller.” — Anka Muhlstein, author of Monsieur Proust’s Library

The Travels of Daniel Ascher is about the power of stories, particularly the ones we tell about ourselves. Within its svelte form, the novel packs in a love story (several actually), a family story, a war story, a mystery, a travelogue, and even a convincingly imagined children’s adventure series. All these strands weave together beautifully in this deftly plotted and deeply moving novel.” — Gabrielle Zevin, author of The Fabled Life of A.J. Fikry

“…a delightful adventure.” — The Missoulian

“Bewitching, charming.” — Elle (France)

“A novel rich in reflections on identity, memory, and the power of fiction.” — Le Figaro