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Set during the Cold War, Who We Were is an intimate and powerful love story about trust, obsession and the truth itself.
Melbourne, 1938. Annabel’s dream is to be a scientist. Falling in love is not part of her plan. But when she meets Bill Whitton she knows instantly that they are destined for each other.
She has to wait for him to come back from the war. Their life together, as lovers and microbiologists, can now begin.
The newlyweds emigrate to New York. They are at once captivated by fellow immigrants Frank, an ex-Communist from Hungary, and his playwright wife, Suzy. It’s the 1950s and the Cold War is in full swing. Frank, Annabel and Bill find work on weapons projects, experimenting with lethal infectious diseases.
Did they cross the world for this? Annabel’s whole being is anchored in her ardour for Bill, and their work together. But other forces—suspicion, paranoia, deceit—are at play. Everything begins to unravel: her work, her career and her marriage.
Listen to an interview with 4ZZZ FM Book Club.
‘A love story turns into a Cold War thriller: a beautifully, tautly written novel…I could not put it down.’
‘Who We Were is a tale told simply with great poise and assurance. Neave has a strong narrative sense and a gift for the evocation of time and place.’
‘A tense and cooly assured debut novel.’
‘A very restrained sort of thriller…A dark, sad tale about taking risks, making allowances and justifying the unjustifiable…Well-written, the prose is gentle, almost dream-like in tone.’
‘Neave’s elegant, assured prose turns a run-of-the-mill love story into an intense and intriguing narrative that builds into a Cold War thriller…This is a first-class debut novel that crosses the literary and commercial divide.’
‘Neave has written a powerful novel set in an intriguing time, with interesting Melbourne and New York—and a mysterious twist in the tale—woven in for good measure.’