Synopses & Reviews
In 1984, Jolene Iolas, a student in upstate New York, encounters Martin Sloane's art while visiting a Toronto gallery. Flush with the confidence of youth, she strikes up a correspondence with the older artist, and eventually the two become lovers. Introduced to a constancy of love she has never known, Jolene relaxes into the rituals of being someone's other half. She learns Martin's story and cherishes it as her own. He becomes a fixture in her life, a star in her sky.
And then, he vanishes. There is no hint of his fate, no chain of cause to be followed. Over a long fall, the shock slowly hardening into fact, Jolene sheds her life, losing everything, including her oldest friend, Molly, to inexpressible grief.
Ten years pass, Jolene slowly learns to stop trying to make sense of it all. But before she can fully return to life, the opportunity to confront a ghost arises. Word has come from Molly, of all people, that someone named Sloane has been exhibiting artworks identical to Martin's in Irish galleries. Jolene travels to Dublin, where she reluctantly reconnects with Molly and together, they find themselves lost in a jumble of pasts as they try to piece together what happened to Martin Sloane.
An exquisitely crafted novel, Martin Sloane is about the mysteries of love and art, the weight of history, and what it means to bear memory for the missing and the dead.
About the Author
Michael Redhill is the author of four poetry collections, most recently Asphodel (1997) and Light-crossing (2001). As a playwright, his most recent works are Doubt and Building Jerusalem, winner of the 2000 Dora Award for Outstanding New Play. He is one of the editors of Brick, a literary magazine. Redhill lives and works in Toronto.
Reading Group Guide
1. Having realised Molly's capacity and desire to understand Martin's art, Jolene tries to give her the honeycomb artwork. What does Molly's behaviour (especially in context of her experience with martin in the shed) say about the friendship between the two women?
2. One morning, Martin and Jolene embark on a strange game of storytelling and lying. What significance does this have in relation to events in both their lives and their perceptions of those events?
3. After coming close to death from tuberculosis, Martin is taken into a Catholic church by his father, although he knows it goes against his mother's wishes. How far does this theme of compromise and tolerance permeate the book?
4. Considering the absence of the adult Martin from the main part of the book, how successfully do you think Michael Redhill maintains his presence through the searching and discussions of the two women?
5. Discuss the significance of the story of the Clonmacnoise Bible.
6. Jolene's conclusion is that you cannot ever really know someone if you love them, and that our faith in love is misplaced. Although she also says that she doesn't know where else to place that faith. Do you think these reflections are fully justified by the events of the book?