Monday, April 26, 2010

The Singer's Gun by Emily St. John Mandel

The Singer's Gun by Emily Mandel
304 pages
Published May 2010 by Unbridled Books
Source: This copy courtesy of the publisher

I've been struggling with a synopsis for this one since I finished reading it. I didn't have much of an idea what it was about when I started reading it. I knew I wanted to read it because I had liked Mandel's "Last Night in Montreal," so I jumped at the chance to read this one. I thought maybe I'd just use the publisher's synopsis, and you're welcome to read it if you want to, but it gives away a far amount of what were, for me, the surprises that made this feel like a puzzle to me.

Anton Walker is the only son of parents that deal in salvage architecture and cousin to Aria, a person he is drawn to in ways that only lead to trouble. Anton has broken away from his family to start a new life for himself as a mid-level manager and has desperately been trying to marry his girlfriend, Sophie. When he finally manages to get her down the aisle, it turns out it is too late for them and Sophie leaves him on their honeymoon and returns home alone. And that's not the only thing that's gone wrong in Anton's life. He's been having an affair with his secretary, something strange is going on with his job, and he's been sucked into one last job for Aria that seems to be more dangerous than she is making it out to be.

There--that's all I want to tell you even though I took a printer page full of miniscule notes to keep track of what was going on. But I really want you to have the fun of turning the pages and having those "a-ha" moments which made this book such a page turner for me. Mandel has, once again, created a book loaded with usual characters and a plot unlike anything you have ever read before. And then there's her writing; Mandel also has an entirely unique voice.
"Anton resented the absence of a television, but there were things he read in books that took his breath away. His mother's collection of travel guides never moved him, but Kirkegaard's last words were Sweep me up. He read those three words when he was fifteen and his eyes filled inexplicably with tears."
"Come on, this can't possibly be it. I cannot possibly be expected to do something this awful day in and day out until the day I die. It's like a life sentence imposed in the absence of a crime."
"Every catastrophe has a last moment just before it: as last as eight forty-four A.M. on the morning of September 11, 2001, it was still only a perfect bright day in New York."
The first half of the novel moves along rapidly, introducing characters, dropping hints then later resolving them. The second half of the book is much slower as it takes all of that and sets up the conclusion and it did drag a bit in places. Just as she did in "Last Night in Montreal," Mandel left me with a satisfying ending--not a "happily ever after" ending but tidy enough to satisfy.

There's a lot here for a book club to discuss--fidelity, right vs. wrong, just how much do we owe our families. Both "Last Night In Montreal" and "The Singer's Gun" have been Indie Next Picks. As I finished this one, I was happy to know that Mandel is hard at work on a third novel so I shouldn't have long to wait. "The Singer's Gun" will be on blog tour beginning next week so be sure to check out for other opinions.

Tomorrow I'll be posting a giveaway for a copy of "The Singer's Gun" so be sure to check back then.


  1. I read and reviewed Last Night in Montreal and really liked it. You are right about Mandel having a unique voice. I will definitely be reading this book after reading your wonderful review and will be stopping back over to enter your great giveaway!!

  2. I've read great things about her first book and I love the way you described this one. Thank you so much for not giving anything away...I hate that!

  3. Lisa, this sounds very good. I plan to move it up on the reading list; thanks for the great review.

  4. Great review! I haven't heard of this one yet, but Last Night in Montreal is on my wishlist. She definitely shouds like an author I should try.

  5. When I read (or read about) books like this, I wonder how authors can plan and keep straight such intricate plot lines. Like the Time Traveler's Wife where he kept jumping back and forth. It's hard for me to imagine how an author plans it - but I can relate to your detailed note taking. that is what I often have to do with books like this.

  6. This book sounds fabulous - I've heard lots about St. Mandel's writing.

  7. You're right; she does have a unique voice. I think I'll try Last Night in Montreal first.

  8. Glad you enjoyed this! I loved Last Night in Montreal! Can't wait to read this one!

  9. Thank you so much for your review! Glad you enjoyed the book.

  10. Oh, I really want to read this one! Sad I was too slow for your giveaway.