10 June 2012

My Thoughts on Emily St. John Mandel, The Lola Quartet




"He drove to a part of the suburbs that was close up against the edge of the wilderness, although it had occurred to Gavin that what he thought of as wilderness might just be a band of wildly lush greenery with another suburb approaching undetected from the other side, like two teams of miners tunneling toward one another under the earth.  The streets out here were wide and industrial, self-storage facilities, a junkyard."
I was really excited to find Emily St. John Mandel's new book on Net Galley, and I wasn't disappointed by reading it.  I had heard of Mandel as I am a fan of The Millions, but I didn't really have any expectations going into the book, just a little hint of buzz.  What The Lola Quartet is, is a mystery of sorts.  It follows the goings on in the lives of four characters that once upon a time formed the book's title quartet.  After high school, the four members - Gavin, Sasha, Daniel and Jack- part ways, with lots of untold, and even unknown, secrets between them.  The books starts by following the disintegrating life of Gavin, who is a New York newspaper reporter, recently divorced and finding himself increasingly compelled to fabricate his stories. He is also obsessing over a picture that his sister has taken of a young girl that looks eerily like Gavin.  I don't want to do too much summarizing, because there is just too much there and it is a bit twisty turney, surprises included.

From the beginning the tone of the writing is noirish, with a distinct Chinatown vibe.  Mandel does a great job of capturing the atmosphere in the novel, the Florida swampiness, and the seedy milieu that many of her characters inhabit.  Her characterizations also feel complete and distinct, although she is careful not to give too much away in each chapter, and so the pacing of the novel really works.  The final thing that impressed me about Mandel's style was the ability to capture, in the rhythms and heartbeats of her writing, the musicality that is also a theme in the book.

Overall: Recommended.

Title: The Lola Quartet
Author: Emily St. John Mandel
 Publisher: Unbridled Books
Date: 2012
Genre: Literary Fiction, Noir (ish)

228 pages.
Where I got it: From the publisher through Net Galley
Challenges: None

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