Monday, February 20, 2012


Shop Indie Bookstores

Last Night in Montreal, Emily St John Mandel, Unbridled Books, 2009, 247 pp

Those Canadian novelists are something, especially the women. This stunning novel is the first from Emily St John Mandel, born in British Columbia.

Lilia is a young woman compelled to travel. After a certain short amount of time in any given location, she must move on, not so much because she wants to leave but because she needs to go. Like any compulsion, the reason for it is lost to Lilia in a cloud of amnesia.

The novel opens on a day when she has just left a man who loved her, who accepted that she would not reveal her mysteries. Since this entire story is a mystery, we are drawn right in by the bereft puzzlement suffered by Eli, a frustrated grad student unable to complete his thesis on endangered languages.

Eventually Eli goes in search of Lilia and her story is revealed: abusive insane mother, rescuing father, a life on the road, a detective in pursuit. A horrific story of alienation and frustrated dreams emerges, centered on a woman who does not remember the defining incident of her life.

Mandel's writing is a crystal clear style of unpretentious storytelling. She could write a page-turning thriller, and in a sense she has, but it is the characters and their relationships that thrill. The feeling is almost gothic but the lives are embedded in our times. Daphne du Maurier reincarnated?

Near the end, when you know almost everything, all you want to know is will Lilia and Eli find each other again?

No comments:

Post a Comment