Last Night in Montreal

We know from the second sentence of Last Night in Montreal that protagonist Lilia disappears, but it is the first sentence -- "No one stays forever" -- that defines this beautiful, complicated, and occasionally disappointing debut novel. Lilia enters grad student Eli's spartan and stable life one day at a coffee shop. She has a bohemian beauty (Eli finds her choppy, self-barbered hair "thrilling") and a fascination with his study of dead and dying languages. At first, this seems to hold the key to Mandel's plot: We constantly misinterpret the words of the people we love. It's less important to know about Eli than to know he cares enough about Lilia to try and understand why she, in her own words, "doesn't know how to stay." Lilia, used to an itinerant lifestyle after years of moving rapidly with her father, leaves Eli in one city and pops up in another, living with the mysterious Michaela. Michaela's father, police officer Charles Graydon, is also chasing Lilia -- but his reasons for doing so couldn't be more different from Eli's. Unfortunately for plot cohesion, at this point the idea that "no one stays forever" takes over, and sometimes remembering why an event or character matters takes effort. Fortunately for Mandel's future as a novelist, that theme was the right one to pursue. The author is concerned with the different faces of neglect and their consequences. Once Lilia's full story is revealed, characters understand each other all too well -- and perhaps too late. Mandel's exquisite use of language and pacing mean that every last word counts, up to the very last sentence.

April 24: "[The HST] lifted a curtain from our view of the universe, changing it so profoundly that no human can look at the stars in the same way..."

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysley Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
In the Light of What We Know

Zia Haider Rahman's mystery of a brilliant Bangladeshi mathematician's past barrels through the Ivy League, London high finance, and spy-haunted Afghanistan in a page-turning tale of exile, intrigue and the price of friendship. A Discover Great New Writers selection.

The People's Platform

Once touted as the foundation for tomorrow's digital democracy, the Internet is increasingly ruled by a few corporate giants, while millions of contributors till its fields for free. Astra Taylor looks at why the web has failed to deliver a communitarian cyberscape, and offers a compelling case for restoring its original vision.

A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.