Friday, June 5, 2009

Review: Last Night in Montreal

Summary: 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. -- Unbridled

I know many of you agree with me that it is always a treat to read a book published by Unbridled Books. They always seem to have the most gorgeous artwork on their covers, and their books just always seem to be a little "special." I recently read one of their latest releases LAST NIGHT IN MONTREAL by Emily St. John Mandel, and I thought this book was just wonderful. Once again, Unbridled does not disappoint!

I have actually been procrastinating about writing this review because I don't think I'm articulate enough to capture my feelings about this novel. I found this book to be completely engrossing, and there are just so many good things to say about it. I'll start with the writing because I think that's the thing that has stayed with me the most. Ms. Mandel's style of storytelling is really something special. The story alternates between the lives of the different characters, and it also goes back and forth between present day and the past. I was very much impressed with how the author managed to juggle all this -- it really was just so well done and the transitions were flawless. In addition, I just loved how the book flowed; and it seemed as if each word in this book was there for a particular reason -- whether it was to give the reader a better understanding of the characters or to evoke a certain feeling.

I also truly appreciated the characters in this novel as well as how Ms. Mandel developed them. The story basically covers the lives of four main characters, and each one was deeply complex and flawed. I love how the author gradually unfolded the pasts of the characters so that the reader was able to gain an understanding of their current situations. These characters are just so memorable and have remained in my thoughts even after I finished reading the story.

Not only did I appreciate the characters, but I also thought the basic storyline of this novel was very interesting. I know that part of the reason I enjoyed this story so much was the characters and how the author told the story, but I was also very intrigued by the mystery angle of the book. I was desperate to understand what occurred in the past to set this entire chain of events into motion. I couldn't read fast enough to learn about the characters' lives, and I was fascinated by the effect that their individual actions had on each of the other characters.

LAST NIGHT IN MONTREAL is Emily St. John Mandel's debut novel, and I have to say that I was just blown away. Her prose is absolutely beautiful and her characters are so well-developed. I found myself hesitating to set this book down because the author just drew me into the story. You just have to check out the Chapter 1 excerpt that is available on her website to see what I mean about her writing. I am hoping that the author has another novel in the works because I will definitely be reading it!

A little aside: Emily St. John Mandel was at BEA, and I'm so disappointed that I didn't get to meet her. I would have loved to have the chance to tell her how wonderful I think she is in person. To make matters even worse, I found out that we were both at the BEA Tweetup Party on Friday night and I didn't even know it!

LAST NIGHT IN MONTREAL would make an incredible selection for book clubs. I highly recommend it as a discussion book or just a fantastic summer read. Either way, there are so many things that will be running through your head while reading this novel; and I can pretty much guarantee that you'll want to discuss it with someone. Some of the topics for discussion include abuse, family dynamics, escapism, sacrifice, abandonment, and (my favorite) obsession to name just a few. This novel just offers so much food for thought!

Thanks to Caitlyn from Unbridled Books for sending me a copy of LAST NIGHT IN MONTREAL.

12 comments:

Emily St. John Mandel said...

Thank you for this wonderful review. I'm happy that you enjoyed Last Night in Montreal so much, and very sorry that I missed you at BEA! If we're both at the next one, let's figure out a time and a place to say hello in person.

rachel at Unbridled said...

Thank you! I think you did a great job of articulating your thoughts. We're so glad you loved the read!

And I'm proud to say that Unbridled Books will be publishing Emily's second novel next spring. You're in for another treat...

shelburns said...

I opted not to do this tour, and after reading your review, am kicking myself. I love it when a book stays with me long after I've read it; that's when you know it's GOOD!

Beth F said...

This sounds super and the reviews are great. I will definitely have to read this. And Rachel: Good news about the second book!

Michelle said...

I was interested in reading this book based on the excerpt alone but seeing your comments on character and prose has made me anxious to get to it.

carolsnotebook said...

This one is already on my to-red list, and your review just reinforced my need to read it.

bermudaonion said...

Oh my gosh, it's so cool that your first comment is from the author! I agree with you about Unbridled Books - they are gorgeous and seem to have a little something extra in them. It sounds like they have another winner in this one. Great review.

The Tome Traveller said...

Unbridled always has such wonderful titles! I'm looking forward to reading Montreal later this month. I stopped by the Unbridled booth last weekend to meet Libby and Emily was there too! Good timing. It was great to meet them both.

Carey

Stephanie said...

I did get to meet her at BEA (she stopped by my blogger signing) and told her that I had heard good things about her novel!

S. Krishna said...

I totally know what you mean about not feeling like you could do this book justice in a review - I had the same thoughts! It was great, wasn't it?

Rebecca :) said...

Beautiful review, Julie. I think you articulated your feelings about the book quite well. The word 'engrossing' says so much all on its own. This one is on my tbr list, too.

avisannschild said...

I just posted my review of this book and I agree with you, her writing is superb!