A turning point in the trip takes place in Amsterdam. Cat, the Australian girl who Albie met in Paris, turns up in Amsterdam, and when the four of them go out together, Douglas feels that she is spoiling his plans. Cat suggests going to a coffee shop, but Douglas declines, and he is left alone while Albie and Connie stay with Cat. There is a strange incident when he goes as he gets involved in an incident with a bunch of burly guys who try to con him out of his money when he accidentally knocks their bikes down, and a prostitute appears.
The following day they are having breakfast at the same table as some men who are talking business. When one of the men shows a brochure, they see that they are talking about manufacturing guns. When Douglas tells his family to go, Albie addresses the men and tells them something about having blood in their hands, and next there is a noisy brawl as Albie tries to hit the men and they respond to the attack. Douglas tries to restrain his son, and then when tempers calm down, he apologises to the men for Albie’s behaviour.
That incident is a turning point in the story. Connie is upset because Douglas didn’t have the guts to stand up for his son and instead apologised. Albie is also upset and refuses to go exploring, and when Connie and Douglas return to the hotel, there is a note from Albie. He and Cat have gone, and he tells his parents that the grand tour wasn’t a good idea and he was going to do his own thing. He asks them not to contact him, and he will phone them when he feels ready. Naturally, Connie is upset as well as Douglas, and this means the end of their trip. Connie wants to go home, and Douglas agrees to go back with her, but at the airport he gets a call from the hotel in Venice that he had booked, and from the conversation it is clear that Albie had contacted the hotel, so then and there Douglas feels he can find Albie, and he will apologise and take him back home. So he phones Connie on his mobile and tells her that he is going to stay and find Albie. Connie tries to persuade him, but he is adamant. So Connie goes home, and Douglas stays, intending to gain his son and wife back.
Next he travels to Venice, and he walks the whole city three times without much luck. He hopes to find his son, but it is not going to be so easy. In his hotel he meets a woman, Freya, a Danish dentist, who is travelling alone. They hit it off, and they visit the Accademia together and even have dinner. I think Douglas likes her, and at the end of their dinner there is a strange moment in which Freya invites him to her room to sleep together just for comfort, and not for sex. I have to say that I don’t like the inclusion of this woman in the novel. She is all right, but I think the novel is beautiful with Douglas just focusing on his son and trying to recover his wife. I just hope that there is no happy ending with this woman, and Douglas and Connie can patch things up.
During his stay in Venice Douglas finds a youtube channel on which Cat has some videos of her busking, and then he sees one in which Albie is there as well. He is hopeful when he sees a gondolier among the spectators, meaning that Albie is in Venice. Yet, the night when he sleeps in Freya’s bed, he can’t really fall asleep and checks the youtube channel, and to his dismay there are videos and messages in which Cat says that they are leaving Venice, and their next destination is Sienna. So without stopping to wake up Freya, Douglas decides to go and simply leaves a message to Freya. His next destination is Sienna, and on his way there he regrets being unable to say a proper goodbye to Freya. I wonder if he will see Freya again. I hope not!!!
In his reminiscences Douglas goes over the pivotal moments with Connie. He proposed to her in Venice, but she didn’t accept at one. She told him to let her think, and a few months later she agreed to become his wife in the local supermarket. Their wedding was a small affair, in a registry office with just their family and closest friends. The first blow in their married life came six months later when Connie admitted to having had an affair with someone at work. That ensued a terrible row, and Connie moved out of the house for a while, but Douglas forgave her. Some months later Connie got pregnant, and they were happy to become parents. Jane, their daughter, was born prematurely, but she was beautiful. The first night as Douglas was told to go home, he got a call at 4 a.m. Jane was having problems breathing and Douglas was urged to go to the hospital. When Douglas got there, he found Connie curled up in the bed and sobbing, and he knew at once. Their baby had died. It was sepsis, and it was nobody’s fault.
Jane’s death was not easy for either of them. Connie fell into a depression, and they hardly left the house or received friends. Douglas returned to work eventually and felt useless as he was unable to help his wife. Things were very difficult at home, and he often wished not to go back home, but he was always there for Connie. A year later things were gradually better. They scattered Jane’s ashes on the Isle of Skye, and then Douglas treated her with a trip to Paris where Albie was conceived. They were very scared as the pregnancy progressed, but Albie was born healthy, and they became very proud parents.
I am loving the story. The only point I have problems with is Freya. Maybe she is important but I really hope that she is only part of Douglas’s learning adventure, and nothing else. I wonder what will happen when Douglas finds Albie. And what about Connie? In her last text she mentions she is coming over. Is she really flying from England again? Why? Is she now afraid of losing Douglas?