ABOUT THE BOOK:
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Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel is a Vintage publication.
What an incredibly absorbing story!
Again, I have no memory of how this book crossed my path. I can’t remember who recommended it or where I first noticed it.
It’s not a new release, originally published back in 2009, and is apparently this author’s debut novel. But, it’s new to me, as is this author. But no matter how I discovered it, or how old it is, I still found this book to be a very atmospheric mystery, and I’m glad I ran across it.
Why has a private detective been following Lilia Albert for most of her life?
This story follows the events that sent Lilia and her father on the run, her unconventional childhood, and the detective who became obsessed with her case. As an adult, Lilia has incredible difficulty staying in one place for too long or sticking with a romantic relationship for any length of time.
In her soul she wishes she could settle, but she is always restless. The questions about her childhood, the events that led her father to steal her away in the midst of a cold wintry night, haunts her even though she is an adult now and her father has remarried has a new family.
But, Lilia isn’t the only one whose life was left in a strange kind of limbo. Also, deeply affected, like a snowball effect are Lilia’s half- brother, who knows more than he’s telling- the detective who has become so obsessed he deserts his own wife and child, and every single person Lilia has left behind. Lilia’s most recent boyfriend, is determined to find her, becoming nearly as obsessed as the detective who still searches for her, after all this time, even though she is an adult now.
The writing is stark and the atmosphere is heavy, fraught with a fitful frustration. Lilia’s frustration stemming from her inability to remember anything prior to her father’s sudden late-night arrival, the frustration felt by those who want to be close to Lilia, and frustration by those who are looking for her, but have been thwarted in their mission time and time again. But, one of the most profound elements of the story is the effect Lilia has had, by proxy on the detective's family, who have found themselves abandoned, even replaced by an obsession they can’t fully comprehend.
The story is sad, moody, and dark with a taut psychological tone that kept me invested in the story. One will gather early on, even if no details are initially forthcoming, most of the whys and wherefores of the events that led Lilia to this point in her life.
While I could understand her flightiness and her compulsive nature, I’m not sure I could really understand the way so many people became fixated on her. It’s like the Winston Churchill quote:
It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, but perhaps there is a key.
The possibility that there is a key is what may be driving these people to continue a fruitless quest that comes at such an incredibly high cost to so many people.
The ending is so emotional and melancholy, and while I wasn't happy with some developments, at all, the conclusion hints at forgiveness, and also grants Lilia a wish that could, after all this time, give her enough ammunition to finally find overdue peace of mind and grant her the ability to finally stop her nomadic life and enjoy a bit of normalcy.
This book is gripping, the pacing is quite slow. For me this only added to the suspense, forcing me to acquire virtuous patience, which did indeed reap rewards. The writing is just amazing, very impressive, which now has me curious to see what other books this author has written. I’ll definitely read more of her work!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Emily St. John Mandel was born and raised on the west coast of British Columbia, Canada. She studied contemporary dance at the School of Toronto Dance Theatre and lived briefly in Montreal before relocating to New York.
Her fourth novel, Station Eleven, is forthcoming in September 2014. All three of her previous novels—Last Night in Montreal, The Singer's Gun, and The Lola Quartet—were Indie Next Picks, and The Singer's Gun was the 2014 winner of the Prix Mystere de la Critique in France. Her short fiction and essays have been anthologized in numerous collections, including Best American Mystery Stories 2013. She is a staff writer for The Millions. She lives in New York City with her husband.