Erneste works in a grand hotel in Switzerland. He is the â€˜perfect waiter', a model of order in every way. But inwardly this polite, withdrawn man has been caught in the grip of an overwhelming passion that began in the summer of 1935 with Jakob, a fellow waiter. For Jakob the affair is just a fling, but for Erneste it is true love. When the great German writer Julius Klinger arrives at the hotel, seeking sanctuary from Hitler's Germany, his gaze, too, lights on Jakob.
One morning, three decades later, Erneste receives a letter with a US postmark from Jakob asking for help. It is a call that forces Erneste to engage with the world again and risk discovering the truth behind his memories of the great love of his youth. Shifting skilfully between two eras, Sulzer's tense, moving and elegantly written novel is a small masterpiece about the joy and pain of love.