Two Tickets to Dubrovnik is a novella centered on the bittersweet memories of an Australian wine writer’s visit to Croatia. Tightly written, the book is filled with information about the area’s history and could even work as something of a travel guide to Dubrovnik. But it is a quietly told story without a lot of big drama, and that may leave some readers wishing the author had upped the ante a bit.
Protagonist Andrew Johnston’s memories are triggered when he discovers two tickets to the old walled city of Dubrovnik beneath a lamp. The memories are tinged with regret, and we soon learn of his once-promising flirtation with Niki, a young woman he met in the Croatian city in a chance encounter with a business acquaintance. As the story of their meeting evolves, soon the pair are strolling the city, visiting ancient cathedrals, palaces and other old city sites, while Niki relates the rich and often tragic history of the country.
But from the outset, the friendship is shadowed by warnings from well-meaning locals, and one day, Johnston awakens to a sharp knock and finds the police waiting. Ultimately, Johnston is put in the unsettling position of protecting himself — both from police and certain “unsavory characters,” one of whom is Niki’s brother — or being true to Niki. To do both is not possible.
Higher stakes might have made this a more compelling read, but Kennedy promises only a tale in which the control of his protagnoist’s life is taken from his hands, and in that he delivers. A more imminent sense of danger to the character, a faster paced plot and even a deeper intimacy between Andrew and Niki might have heightened the drama significantly. Still, the setting and history are expertly drawn, as is the protagonist’s unfortunate dilemma. Readers looking for a well-written, simple tale set in an old country steeped in history and color should find this a satisfying escape.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.