Review: Last Night in Montreal – Emily St John Mandel

last night in montrealLast Night in Montreal is a story of love, amnesia, compulsive travel, the depths and the limits of family bonds, and the nature of obsession. In this extraordinary debut, Emily St. John Mandel casts a powerful spell that captures the reader in a gritty, youthful world — charged with an atmosphere of mystery, promise and foreboding — where small revelations continuously change our understanding of the truth and lead to desperate consequences. Mandel’s characters will resonate with you long after the final page is turned.

Lilia Albert has been leaving people behind her entire life. She spends her childhood and adolescence traveling constantly and changing identities. In adulthood, she finds it impossible to stop. Haunted by an inability to remember her early childhood, she moves restlessly from city to city, abandoning lovers along the way, possibly still followed by a private detective who has pursued her for years. Then her latest lover follows her from New York to Montreal, determined to learn her secrets and make sure she’s safe.

A taut yet lyrical tale of loss and love, of sacrifice and abandonment, and of finding a way home, Last Night in Montreal is a dazzling read, filled with rich characters and shocking twists. It marks the beginning of a wonderful career.

Rating: 3/5

I picked up Emily St John Mandel’s Station Eleven, and absolutely adored it. When I saw her backlist up for request on Edelweiss, I knew I had to check out some more of her work.

And her writing doesn’t disappoint. Part mystery, part psychological thriller, part road-trip diary, part family drama, this is a novel of intrigue, suspense, dodgy character decisions, fractured families and abandonment.

The plot moves back in time after our MC Lilia leaves her lover behind in New York without so much as a goodbye note, and traces her journey from childhood – where a traumatic event leads to growing up with her life as one constant road trip across the USA, and how the pattern of picking up and leaving continues to haunt her in her adult life.

While you want to shake the MC for her decisions, you can also kind of understand why she does it – the claustrophobia, the running away. Meanwhile Eli, her ex-lover, borders on the obsessive in his search for her, which made me rather wary of his character, and he is also a rather frustrating character with his aimless life.

The background characters are also rather compelling, and the novel culminates in a rather unexpected manner. I liked that there wasn’t a traditional HEA, but Lilia, at least, seems to have found some peace.

Free copy received from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. 

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15 thoughts on “Review: Last Night in Montreal – Emily St John Mandel

  1. I knew absolutely nothing about Emily St. John Mandel prior to reading this post, but I am interested. The story sounds compelling and definitely worth checking out. And I do try to maintain a healthy habit of consuming literary fiction now and again. I’m a sucker for memorable writing 🙂

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  2. I love that this novel is so many wonderful, compelling things at once! I also love it when I can depend on an author to always give me precisely what I want to read, which seems to be the case for you here. This sounds absolutely wonderful!

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  3. i love it when we enjoy an author’s work so much that we hunt high and low for their other works. i enjoyed Station Eleven too. i wish i don’t have so many books piled up that i can afford to seek out more of her work.

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  4. Part mystery, part psychological thriller, part road-trip diary, part family drama?! I’M SOLD 😀 Seriously, this book is so so interesting! I love mystery books, and I also love reading psychological thrillers as well so knowing that this book has a mix of the two makes me so excited for this book. Thanks for spotlighting this book! ❤ I'll definitely look it up real soon!!!

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  5. For a moment there, I had thought that this author was actually a debut one with Station Eleven O_O I’ll need to check out this previous book of hers. If the characters moved you enough to feel frustrated at them while understanding their POV, I see that as a good thing because the author’s writing was effective enough to make you feel so strongly about their actions. Hopefully I’ll love it!

    Faye at The Social Potato

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    1. She has three previous books – Station Eleven was her fourth – but nevertheless, I think this was a pretty great debut. It’s a mark of a skilled writer that they can generate strong or negative feelings about their characters while still enabling the reader to understand their motivations – totally agree!

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