Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Thriller
For fans of: Gillian Flynn, Donna Tartt, David Gilbert
I wish to remain vanishing.
Having just published a new novel (Station Eleven) and with a Bailey’s Prize nomination under her belt, now seems like the perfect time to delve into The New York Times bestselling author Emily St. John Mandel’s works. Last Night in Montreal follows multiple threads but the character that binds them all together is Lilia. The novel opens with her calmly and quietly walking out on her boyfriend Eli without his knowledge.
We soon find out that Lilia was abducted by her father as a child (the implication is that it was for her benefit) and has been on the run ever since, changing her appearance and her name every few months to protect herself and her father from discovery. It quickly becomes apparent that in adulthood she finds it difficult to stay in any one place for more than a few months due to her tumultuous upbringing and whilst her presence is fleeting, she’s managed to touch many people, with each connection having far wider reaching repercussions than she could ever realise.
[…] it seemed possible, even in the beginning when everything was easy, that the tenuous logic of her existence in his life might collapse under close examination.
Throughout Last Night in Montreal, you feel like you’re hurtling towards the end of the novel in order to find out whether Eli and Lilia will reunite. But really the reason you keep reading is because of the sheer beauty of Mandel’s writing style; I found myself constantly taking note of certain lines and phrases. The words “ethereal” and “haunting” come to mind.
She held her stories like currency and dispensed small change night by night.
At one point or another all of the characters experience their own sense of loneliness and this desperate escape from isolation is something that Mandel portrays with particular skill. Lilia is forced by circumstance into a secluded life that she can’t seem to shake whilst Eli’s interest in dying languages leaves him ill equipped with the living ones he needs to put an end to his alienation as he pursues his girlfriend in French-speaking Montreal.
We even find out that the private detective hot on Lilia’s trail left a travelling circus to live a “normal” life with his family only to stumble upon a new kind of isolation. It’s heart-breaking but breathtaking to read how loneliness touches all these walks of life, all of which are simply searching for a more profound connection with another human being.
If you want a happy-ending, this isn’t the book for you. But if you’re looking for beautiful writing and a story that examines the depths of the human condition, then I highly recommend that you pick up a copy of Last Night in Montreal. Just make sure you don’t read it while travelling on your own…
Disclaimer: This book was sent to me to review by Picador. All opinions expressed here are my own.