Sunday, February 27, 2011

LAST NIGHT IN MONTREAL by Emily Mandel (2009) Unbridled Books, 247 pages

Emily Mandel is another writer whose work has come to me through Twitter (where you too should follow her @emilymandel). That is a pretty impressive pantheon so far that includes Rosanne Cash, Amy MacKinnon, Harlan Coben, Angie Abdou, Andrew Shaffer and Robin Black. Since I read about 150 books/year, I am always keen to find a new-to-me narrative voice. Mandel's debut novel LAST NIGHT IN MONTREAL simply knocked my socks off.

Like my current favourite movie, WINTER'S BONE, LAST NIGHT IN MONTREAL comes at you quietly, and with intelligence. It is perfectly structured and the prose is luminous. In it, absence is poetic.

Lilia Albert has been on the run since she was abducted by her father when she was only seven. She is unable to remember her early childhood before that winter's night when her estranged father scooped her off her feet, out of the snow and into the safety of his arms. Now in her twenties and in a loving relationship with Eli, Lilia realizes that it just may be impossible for her to stop running, because that is what she has known.

Flight is a recurring motif in the novel, symbolized by paintings of Icarus by Matisse and Bruegel, by the feathery costume wings Michaele dons and by mariposa--the Spanish word for butterfly. Several characters are in flight: sometimes from their past, other times from their present and from the idea of their future.

In reading Mandel's elegiac LAST NIGHT IN MONTREAL you will learn that coming to terms with sacrifice and abandonment may be the only way to find your way home.


Steph said...

Oh hey, I love that cover! That's not what ours looks like...

Nice tight review. You've really made me want to read it. I like the story idea for sure, and am interested in the themes.


Janet said...

It's a beautiful book. I'm keen to hear what you think when you're done.

Emily St. John Mandel said...

Thanks for the lovely review, and for reading my work! I appreciate it.