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Last Night in Montreal


Last Night in Montreal Cover




No one stays forever. On the morning of her disappearance Lilia woke early, and lay still for a moment in the bed. It was the last day of October. She slept naked. Eli heard the sounds of awakening, the rustling of the duvet, her bare footsteps on the hardwood floor, and she kissed the top of his head very lightly en route to the bathroom — he made an agreeable humming noise but didn't look up — and the shower started on the other side of the almost-closed door. She stayed in the shower for forty-five minutes, but this wasn't unusual; the day was still unremarkable. Eli glanced up briefly when she emerged from the bathroom. Lilia, naked: pale skin wrapped in a soft white towel, short dark hair wet on her forehead, and she smiled when he met her eyes. "Good morning," he said. Smiling back at her. "How did you sleep?" He was already typing again. She kissed his hair again instead of answering, and left a trail of wet footprints all the way back to the bedroom. He heard her towel fall softly to the bedroom floor and he wanted to go and make love to her just then; but he was immersed so deeply in the work that morning, accomplishing things, and he didn't want to break the spell. She came out dressed all in black and carrying the three pieces of a plate that had fallen off the bed the night before; it was a light shade of blue, and sticky with pomegranate juice. He heard her dropping it into the kitchen trashcan before she wandered past him into the living room. She stood in front of his sofa, running her fingers through her hair to test for dampness, her expression a little blank when he glanced up at her, and it seemed to him later that she'd been considering something, perhaps making up her mind. But then, he played the morning back so many times that the tape was ruined — later it seemed possible that she'd simply been thinking about the weather.

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Wendy Robards, June 1, 2009 (view all comments by Wendy Robards)
Lilia awakes one night when she is seven years old and finds her father waiting for her outside in the snow. She walks out of her home and into his arms. What follows is a life of constant travel - moving from place to place with the sensation of being hunted, changing identities, and an inability to create lasting relationships.When Lilia meets Eli, a young man studying dead and dying languages in New York City, she knows she will eventually leave him. But when she does just that, the act puts in motion a series of events which will not only change Lilia’s life, but the lives of those around her.

Last Night In Montreal is a novel which intersects the lives of four flawed characters: Lilia, scarred by events she cannot remember but from which she constantly flees; Eli, stuck in one place and unable to move forward until he becomes obsessed with Lilia; Christopher, the private investigator who gives up everything to find a missing child and uncover the mystery of her disappearance; and Michaela, Christopher’s daughter who is abandoned by her parents and haunted by a girl she only knows through her father’s notes. The mystery surrounding Lilia’s abduction serves as the focal point from which the other characters’ stories revolve. As they are all drawn into Lilia’s life, they are forced to come to terms with their own weaknesses, desires, and fears. Thematically, the story is one about loss, repressed memory, family secrets and identity.

Lilia is a complex character whose life is not her own. She has no recollection of her years before the abduction and seems unable to stop traveling - a compulsion which allows her to see the world and yet not be a part of it.

'She moved over the surface of life the way figure skaters move, fast and choreographed, but she never broke through the ice, she never pierced the surface and descended into those awful beautiful waters, she was never submerged and she never learned to swim in those currents, these current: all the shadows and light and splendorous horrors that make up the riptides of life on earth.' - from Last Night In Montreal, page 119 -

Last Night in Montreal is Emily St. John Mandel’s first novel, and it is a stunning debut. Told from multiple viewpoints and moving back and forth between the present and past, the book is compulsively readable. Mandel’s writing is flawless - poetic, compelling, and achingly beautiful. Perhaps the strongest aspect of Mandel’s prose is her ability to fully develop her characters - people who are adrift and searching and often in pain, but who attract the reader’s empathy and admiration despite their weaknesses.

Last Night In Montreal is one of those books which once started cannot be laid aside. Disturbing and dark at times, it is a novel which will haunt the reader long after it is completed.

Highly recommended.
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Product Details

St. John Mandel, Emily
Unbridled Books
Mandel, Emily St John
Contemporary Women
Psychological fiction
Montreal (quebec)
Literature-Contemporary Women
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Publication Date:
9 x 6 in

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » Contemporary Women

Last Night in Montreal New Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$24.95 In Stock
Product details 256 pages Unbridled Books - English 9781932961683 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "A young woman with a habit of running away runs away yet again in Mandel's competent if unremarkable debut. As Eli finishes another grim day of work on his thesis (its topic: dead and dying languages) in his Brooklyn apartment, he realizes his girlfriend, Lilia, never returned after going out for the newspaper that morning. About a month later, Eli gets a postcard from someone named Michaela in Montreal telling him that Lilia is there, so he heads north, leaving (thankfully) his insufferable friends behind to natter on about art without him. His quest is interspersed with flashbacks to Lilia's childhood: her father kidnaps her at age seven from her mother's house, and the two go on the lam. Back in present-day Montreal, Eli meets Michaela, who happens to be the daughter of the detective who years ago worked on Lilia's abduction case, and together they try to fill in the blanks of Lilia's past. While the plot is interesting enough, the prose often feels forced and the characters sometimes amount to accumulations of quirks, whimsies and neuroses. An intriguing idea, but the delivery isn't quite there. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "Last Night in Montreal marks the debut of a lyrical voice, singing its heart out. Please sit up and take notice. It's a beautiful work."
"Review" by , "[A] taut, gripping debut...[E]legantly compelling."
"Review" by , "The fast pacing and unusual characters make this a compelling first novel. Highly recommended."
"Review" by , "Mandel chooses her words with careful love and arranges them to exquisite effect....[H]er lines follow each other with near breathless precision and echo delicately long after the final page has been turned."
"Synopsis" by , Lila Albert has been leaving people behind for her entire life. Then her latest lover follows her from New York to Montreal, determined to learn her secrets. "Last Night in Montreal" is a story of love, amnesia, the depths and limits of family bonds, and the nature of obsession.
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