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09 February 2010

Two Book Reviews: Last Night In Montreal and The Singer's Gun by Emily St. John Mandel

Title: Last Night In Montreal
Author: Emily St. John Mandel
Publisher: Unbridled Books
Publication Date: Released In Paperback April 2010
Hardcover: 256
ISBN: 978-1-932961-68-3
Genre: Fiction


From the Publisher:

Lilia Albert has been leaving people behind for her entire life. She spends her childhood and adolescence traveling constantly and changing identities. In adulthood, she finds it impossible to stop. Haunted by an inability to remember her early childhood, she moves restlessly from city to city, abandoning lovers along with way, possibly still followed by a private detective who has pursued her for years. Then her latest lover follows her from New York to Montreal, determined to learn her secrets and make sure she’s safe. Last Night in Montreal is a story of love, amnesia, compulsive travel, the depths and the limits of family bonds, and the nature of obsession.

In this extraordinary debut, Emily St. John Mandel casts a powerful spell that captures the reader in a gritty, youthful world—charged with an atmosphere of mystery, promise and foreboding—where small revelations continuously change our understanding of the truth and lead to desperate consequences. Mandel’s characters will resonate with you long after the final page is turned.

My Review:

Last Night In Montreal is a hauntingly beautiful novel of how one abduction, done out of love, could damage so many lives. In a flawless flowing prose, Last Night In Montreal alternates between past and present and in a manner not at all confusing for the reader, seamlessly moving from one family to another. Emily St. John Mandel begins her novel with seven-year-old Lilia waking and walking downstairs toward her awaiting father and together they vanished into the night. The only witness was her stepbrother Simon. The story weaves in and out of Lilia's life on the road with her dad, her relationship with Eli, to the day she vanishes out of Eli's life and how unbeknownst to Lilia, she was a permanent part of Michaela's life for eleven years, all without missing a beat. The morning Lilia walks out of Eli's life he does not even realise she is gone. When he does, he becomes all consumed with finding her. Tormented, Eli receives a postcard from Montréal with a cryptic message from a person named Michaela. While Eli ponders what his next course should be he receives another letter, this one with a page from the Bible inside with a note from Lilia scrawled upon it and a return address to Michaela in Montréal. Eli decides he must head to Montréal to find the answers he is longing for. While Last Night In Montreal is an extremely complex novel, it is so masterfully written the reader is drawn directly into the story looking for the next piece to the puzzle that began with a father abducting his little girl. Rarely do I encounter a book so beautifully written with a complex storyline that is both devastatingly tragic and at the same time life affirming. I would recommend this novel to all readers and highly suggest this become everyone's next book club pick.

Title: The Singer's Gun
Author: Emily St. John Mandel
Publisher: Unbridled Books
Publication Date: May 2010
Hardcover: 304 pages
ISBN: 978-1-936071-64-7
Genre: Fiction


From the Publisher:

Everyone Anton Waker grew up with is corrupt. His parents deal in stolen goods and his first career is a partnership venture with his cousin Aria selling forged passports and social security cards to illegal aliens. Anton longs for a less questionable way of living in the world and by his late twenties has reinvented himself as a successful middle manager. Then a routine security check suggests that things are not quite what they appear. And Aria begins blackmailing him to do one last job for her. But the seemingly simple job proves to have profound and unexpected repercussions.
As Anton’s carefully constructed life begins to disintegrate around him, he’s forced to choose between loyalty to his family and his desires for a different kind of life. When everyone is willing to use someone else to escape the past, it is up to Anton, on the island of Ischia, to face the ghosts that travel close behind him.
Emily St. John Mandel follows up her electric debut with a spellbinding novel of international crime, false identities, the depths and limits of family ties, and the often confusing bonds of love. Taut with suspense, beautifully imagined, full of unexpected corners, desperate choices, betrayals and halftruths with deadly consequences, The Singer’s Gun explores the dangerous territory between one’s moral compass and the heart’s desire.

My Review:

Upon completion of Emily St. John Mandel's first novel, Last Night In Montreal, I began reading her second novel, The Singer's Gun. It was with trepidation that I began the next novel. How could it possibly compare to her first and yet maybe it would be as well written, possibly more so, I had to know. The Singer's Gun was all I was hoping it would be and more. Often I read passages to my husband simply so I would have someone to discuss the novel with. The Singer's Gun is written in a heartbreakingly beautiful prose with a heavy dose of extremely well timed and quite clever wit. Told in both past and present, weaving together the lives of an array of characters, The Singer's Gun becomes real in the reader's mind. Whether in Brooklyn or the Island of Ischia, the reader is transported there through the lyrical, descriptive prose and held there until Emily St. John Mandel decides to move on to another locale or time. An extremely moving novel that delves into the grey areas that makes up every day life. Through the expertly drafted prose, each character springs to life, from each member of the Walker family, to the mysterious Elena and the ever-persistent Alexandra Broden. For fear of giving any of the plot away, I will say that each character must look into the grey areas of life, to determine what is good, what is worth fighting for and to know when to stop. The Singer's Gun contains an expertly crafted plot with several surprise twists that will not only keep the reader engaged, but will make the reader crave discussing the issues. I truly cannot praise this novel enough and my only regret is that I had not read this novel with a colleague so I could discuss the key issues and all those delicately woven grey areas.

About the Author

Emily St. John Mandel was born on the west coast of British Columbia, Canada, in 1979. She studied dance at The School of Toronto Dance Theatre and lived briefly in Montreal before relocating to New York. She lives in Brooklyn.

I received a complimentary copies of Last Night In Montreal and The Singer's Gun by Emily St. John Mandel from Unbridled Books. Receiving a free copy in no way reflected my review of the aforementioned novels.



Emily St. John Mandel said...

Jennifer, thanks for your reviews! Your kind words are much appreciated, and I'm delighted that you liked the books.

Diane said...

WOW, High praise for both books. This author sounds terrific. I have to read her soon.

Michelle said...

These look amazing. I saw your postings on Twitter about these books, so I just had to check out your review.

I'll definitely be looking these up!

Alaine - Queen of Happy Endings said...

Great reviews, both books sound good but I really like the sound of Last Night In Montreal. Happy reading!

Lisa said...

Last Night In Montreal was such a unique story. I have The Singer's Gun sitting waiting patiently for me to find the time to read it and I can't wait!