In 1968, Irène Laureux's husband was murdered during the Paris student and worker riots. Thirty years later, she is still on the hunt for the man who knows how and why Jean-Louis died – his secret lover, Frederick Dubois.
Aiding in her search is American expat Martin Paige, a writer still reeling from a love affair gone wrong with a student, David McLaren. Martin meets a yoIn 1968, Irène Laureux's husband was murdered during the Paris student and worker riots. Thirty years later, she is still on the hunt for the man who knows how and why Jean-Louis died – his secret lover, Frederick Dubois.
Aiding in her search is American expat Martin Paige, a writer still reeling from a love affair gone wrong with a student, David McLaren. Martin meets a young poet, Christian, and the two fall in love, but their happiness is shaken when Martin's friend, Diane Jacobs, arrives in Paris with news that David has gone missing.
Diane discovers that David's disappearance is more than just a missing person case with connections to drugs, stolen identities, long-hidden government secrets and a shocking connection to Irène's past. This literary mystery takes readers from America to London and into the dark underworld of the fabled City of Light.
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)
Regular readers will remember the 2009 book Conquering Venus, the debut novel of multiple Pushcart and Lambda Prize nominee Collin Kelley, and how in my original review I found it promising but full of problems as well, a decent enough first novel but that got only a tepid recommendation from me. And now K(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)
Regular readers will remember the 2009 book Conquering Venus, the debut novel of multiple Pushcart and Lambda Prize nominee Collin Kelley, and how in my original review I found it promising but full of problems as well, a decent enough first novel but that got only a tepid recommendation from me. And now Kelley has just released a sequel, Remain in Light, which essentially takes the same characters and picks up about a year after the previous book leaves off, examining the long-term repercussions of this group's event-filled lives in the original; and the good news, I'm happy to say, is that this second novel is much better than the first, and in fact Kelley seems almost to have directly addressed the exact issues I most complained about in the previous title. For those who need a recap, the first book details the adventures of two youngish hipsters from Tennessee (one a slightly douchey Jewish woman, the other a gay man whose lover recently committed suicide), in charge of leading a group of rowdy teens through their senior trip to Paris, where a whole series of tumultuous events occur -- the man falls in love with one of the teens, a closeted jock with addiction issues, then accidentally becomes friends with a sixty-something French female ingenue, who has been a virtual shut-in since her own lover was killed in the 1968 student riots in that city, the two coincidentally sharing both an unusual tattoo and a propensity for strange magical-realism dreams, a fascinating milieu but unfortunately with wildly inconsistent characterizations, not to mention the troubling aspect of our "hero" entering into a sexual relationship with an underage boy by basically taking advantage of him whenever he was wasted.
Thankfully, though, it's these exact troubling aspects that Kelley mainly addresses in Light, with much of this book being about the long-term effects of that relationship on everyone involved; the devastated man is now sharing a flat with the ingenue, sexually drowning his sorrows through a series of bathhouse-cruising hookups with strangers, while the boy has since disappeared, with his homophobic parents back in Memphis vowing revenge, while the ingenue has had her own mystery deepen as well, as it starts becoming clear that it wasn't actually de Gaullean stormtroopers who killed her husband but rather one particular individual, a former family friend who may or may not have been secretly keeping tabs on her for the last thirty years, and who may or may not have recently purchased the publishing company where she works for mysterious and perhaps sinister reasons. And that's great, because it keeps up the intriguing and busy plot (the best part about the original Venus) but takes a much more consistent and realistic look at how such events would actually affect characters like these, all of them more sympathetic here in the second volume (including the aforementioned douchey hipster Jewish woman, whose one-year-anniversary vacation to Paris is what kicks off all these new events in the first place), precisely because their actions have such more serious consequences here; plus, it's clear that Kelley's actual extended trip to Paris himself between the writing of the first and second novels had a tremendously positive effect as well, in that the city really comes alive here in a kind of engaging and evocative way that it simply doesn't in the first volume. Great as a standalone book, or even better as part two of a grander whole, this is the rare sequel that easily outperforms its predecessor in just about any way you can name, and it comes with a highly enthusiastic recommendation.
The first book in this trilogy, Conquering Venus, is also reviewed somewhere here, I think. Disclaimer: Collin and I have been following each other's work for some time now, and he sent the Kindle version for me to read. I wouldn't say I'm under any sort of obligation to write a positive review. It will be quite positive, however, because it was such a refreshing book. (If I had hated it, I simply wouldn't have posted a review.) The last few I've read (apart from one manuscript submission for myThe first book in this trilogy, Conquering Venus, is also reviewed somewhere here, I think. Disclaimer: Collin and I have been following each other's work for some time now, and he sent the Kindle version for me to read. I wouldn't say I'm under any sort of obligation to write a positive review. It will be quite positive, however, because it was such a refreshing book. (If I had hated it, I simply wouldn't have posted a review.) The last few I've read (apart from one manuscript submission for my publishing company Signal 8 Press) were powerfully disappointing. You can only trudge forward through the pages for so long before you crave a book that whisks you along, inviting you to spend time with characters you'd enjoy knowing. Remain in Light is that kind of book.
I won't bother trying to write a synopsis. If you are reading this and don't know what the book is about, I'd like to recommend this really useful thing called the Internet. Fast forward two years, after the tumultuous events of Conquering Venus. Where would these characters be, and why? What's more, what happened in the past that set this chain of events in motion? Collin has done an admirable job here, layering history, mystery, travelogue, and a fair amount of bonking (can't leave that out!) to create a story that is thoughtful and substantial, immensely readable without being fluff. I can't speak to how well the book works as a stand-alone novel: although Collin intended it to be accessible to readers unfamiliar with Conquering Venus, I've read that book and can't experience this one without that background knowledge. My advice would be just to read them both.
One of the reasons this book works for me is that, despite its Paris setting (with excursions to Berlin, St-Etienne, and Chambery), this is Southern writing. Collin comes from that literary tradition, and readers familiar with the literature of the American South will recognize the use of language; the embrace of flawed, cracked characters; and the strong sense of place in this novel. The cover suggests the grotesque being rendered lovely; that's exactly what Collin is doing here. The novel won't be for everyone: it isn't an easy fit in any genre, it's sexually frank, and it thumbs its nose at a few mores that an increasingly right-wing America holds dear. But then, the best Southern writers don't spoon-feed baby food to their readers....more
This was a fast read because I got caught up in the story. It fulfills its promise of revealing what really happened to Irene's husband and the whereabouts of David. The characters aren't always likeable, especially Diane, but that's what makes them believable. Taking different viewpoints works and short chapters add to the rush of the story.
Almost three years ago I posted a review of local poet and LGBT champion Collin Kelley’s first novel, Conquering Venus. Ordinarily, I’d link back to that review, but I’m not going to this time. Why? Because it’s not relevant anymore. That was three years ago, and the way I feel about that book has changed enough that the review doesn’t matter. If you want to go digging for it, feel free, but you’d be better off just reading this - I’ll clarify my repositioning on Conquering Venus in this review,Almost three years ago I posted a review of local poet and LGBT champion Collin Kelley’s first novel, Conquering Venus. Ordinarily, I’d link back to that review, but I’m not going to this time. Why? Because it’s not relevant anymore. That was three years ago, and the way I feel about that book has changed enough that the review doesn’t matter. If you want to go digging for it, feel free, but you’d be better off just reading this - I’ll clarify my repositioning on Conquering Venus in this review, in light of having read the sequel, Remain In Light.
Conquering Venus came out to mostly glowing reviews, and my reviews and attention to the book were mostly positive as well. Retrospectively, I think some of that praise might have been premature - for reasons I suppose I now have to explain. First, though, let me assure you that the impending praise I’m about to give Remain In Light is highly deserved - with this follow-up, Collin has given us a book that deserves as much if not more attention than current books of similar pacing, style, and genre.
Despite my ex post facto misgivings, two things make Conquering Venus a unique and worthwhile book. One is Collin’s acumen as a poet. The other is his position in the local gay community as an adamant and prolific messenger, diplomat, and champion.
Unfortunately, those two things also contribute to the problems Conquering Venus has as well. First, Collin had some difficulty, I think, in transforming the powerfully metaphoric and sonorous language that makes him such a talented poet into the precise and practical language often required in prose. Sometimes his artful phrasing added beautiful layers to his scenes, as with the Prologue, (you can listen to him read it here). Other times - many times - scenes got muddied, became unclear.
Second, and this is just circumstance - it reflects less on the author than it does the world in which we live - the subject matter simply proved unwieldy for people who are not in or deeply sympathetic to the LGBT community. That, BTW, does not include me - I am and for many years have been a staunch ally of my gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender peers.
Still, and I am loathe to admit this, but the incontrovertible fact is: if you are not a member of the LGBT community or an ally thereof, you might not find much in Conquering Venus to identify with. It’s a sad fact, but it’s true: although the feelings and angst that protagonist Martin Paige and his lover David experience are indeed universal, and ought to transcend boundaries, we live in a society that finds it difficult to transcend with them.
Conquering Venus was a sort of coming-of-age story, the tale of two boys who need to grow past certain things and become men. It’s filled with all the pathos and emotional upheaval you’d expect from any such tale. Honestly, it’s not the kind of story I gravitate toward, and for many others who do gravitate toward that kind of tale, it’s appeal is potentially lessened by their inability to find commonality with a gay couple in Paris.
Still, Conquering Venus was and is an impressive debut novel. The characters, particularly the chief protagonist of Martin and the two female leads of Irene and Diane, are thoughtful and multi-layered portraits of complex and fascinating people. And the setting of 1990s Paris is a character unto itself - you can sense in every overly poetically-phrased description Collin’s love for the City of Light and the people who inhabit it.
The strengths of Conquering Venus are present in Remain as Light as well. Martin, Irene, and Diane are back and as splendidly portrayed as ever. The weaknesses, however, are gone.
Whereas Conquering Venus was a coming-of-age tale full of emotional circumstance, Remain In Light is a murder mystery and a thriller. The stakes aren’t astronomical here - we’re not talking government conspiracy or secret society adventures that will determine the fate of the world. But that doesn’t matter. What’s at stake is the fate of these characters, and Collin gets us so invested in what could and will become of them that we turn every page with as much interest and involvement as we would any story in a similar vein. And honestly, I care more about Martin Paige and Irene Laureux than I ever have Jack Ryan, Jason Bourne, or Robert Langdon.
Finally, with this second excursion into long prose, Collin has adapted an efficient style which gives you pacing and plot in abundance, but a distinct and cohesive sense of place and time. The little ornamental trappings of poesy are still present here and there, but they add to the story now rather than distract and detract. There is also an air of mystery that drives the plot - something amorphous and enigmatic that hangs around each scene like a ghost, giving you the sensation that someone important was there before you, and that you just missed something that could change you and your perspective fundamentally.
Stronger in voice, more sublime in style, and ultimately more intriguing than its predecessor and many of its contemporaries, Remain In Light stands as a great second entry in what Collin is calling his Venus Trilogy. ...more
A letter to an ex-lover begins this heartbreaking novel. As one man recounts his feelings to another as they part. The feelings expressed and the emotions quite strong as Martin expresses his feeling in a goodbye letter to his ex-lover David. We meet Martin Paige and Irene Laureux. Martin begins by remember David and relating to the reader the story that many of us do not know. A special manuscript of poems and a box of matches as his final remembrance or tokenRemain in The Light: Collin Kelley
A letter to an ex-lover begins this heartbreaking novel. As one man recounts his feelings to another as they part. The feelings expressed and the emotions quite strong as Martin expresses his feeling in a goodbye letter to his ex-lover David. We meet Martin Paige and Irene Laureux. Martin begins by remember David and relating to the reader the story that many of us do not know. A special manuscript of poems and a box of matches as his final remembrance or token of love for David left in his apartment for him to decide its fate. David left Martin in order to hide the fact that he is gay from his parents and decided to live the life for a while that they wanted for him. In pleasing others we often harm ourselves. The year is 1968 a volatile time period in Paris. Irene Laureux’s husband was killed and his body dumped near Notre-Dame cathedral. So, why is she still after the killer and what drives her forward? Was his death a simple murder or is there something she does not know? Paris is the city brought to light in this novel and these characters will take you on a tour of many different places that most would not visit as I review Collin Kelley’s Remain in the Light.
Martin did move on but in a cavalier manner as no one could fill the void that David left in his heart and he went about enjoying different romances but not really caring about any. Living with Irene and reminding her that her marriage did not end any differently than his with David created a reminder of events that happened in the past and her need to still search for answers. Irene was married and her husband was unfaithful to her and her lover was killed under mysterious circumstances. But, that was nearly 30 years ago.
Diane Jacobs hates teaching and decided to quit only to find herself having to return. Not only that she was to return home to her parent’s house in order to resume a career she did not want and live a life she wanted to escape. Remembering how she was the reason David and Martin first met and were brought together helped her to understand Martin’s need to escape his past and the ties that sometimes bind you to others. A job in a private school but Diane did not want to live in America and with her father’s help should would return to Paris to Martin and Irene but not before something triggers her anger and fear. While shopping she has an angry encounter with David’s parents that turns ugly in public. Denying that their son is gay and blaming his behavior on Martin and Diane was their way of passing off the blame and turning a blind eye. Only wanting to find out what happened to her son and where David might be, she asks Diane to help in their search since he was missing for quite some time. The author brings to light what happens when parents only see what they want and often shut themselves off from realities when it differs with their blueprint for their child.
Irene suffers from agoraphobia, which is an irrational fear that some people have. It a feeling or dread or panic when faced with certain situations, objects or activities. Some even have panic attacks causing them to become housebound. “Agoraphobia is just one type of phobia, or irrational fear. People with phobias feel dread or panic when they face certain objects, situations, or the symptoms of the panic attacks which may accompany agoraphobia vary from person to person, and may include trembling, sweating, heart palpitations (a feeling of the heart pounding against the chest), jitters, fatigue, tingling in the hands and feet, nausea, a rapid pulse or breathing rate, and a sense of impending doom.”
As we get to know the characters better we learn more about Diane and her relationship with her parents, Martin and her feelings towards Irene. Diane is hard and seems unfeeling and her attachment to Martin although close resentful to Irene at best. At times Diane seems opinionate and anything but warm to Irene who has problems dealing with people in general. The story takes place just a Princess Diana meets an untimely death and both Irene and Martin plan to support Euan by attending her funeral. With limited options, a temporary residence and no job offerings in the horizon Diane is existing on the money her father gave her and hoping that both Martin and Irene will permanently welcome her. But, in the background there is someone lurking that is peering inside Irene’s hotel room, taking pictures of Diane without her knowledge and has no qualms about revealing himself to Irene. One detective named Sullivan seems to have more than must spooked Irene.
The author introduces a really unique fact about Irene. Irene has many backwards dreams where she envisions things in these dreams, which lead her to her husband’s killer. The first of these dreams is described on page 49.
One theme that I see running through the plot is acceptance, as each character that we have met so far needs to feel accepted, wanted and loved for who and what they are. Diane cannot seem to find her own niche or place in the world on her own and Martin, seems to be compensating for losing David by replacing him with meaningless others shielding himself from being hurt. Irene is lost in her past and wants to resolve it for her future when she approaches one detective and reenlists her own to find clues what Diane is really up to and hopefully find answers to her husband’s murder. But, first we learn of Irene’s suspicions about Diane. Diane arrives in a cloud of thunder and a detective seems to appear out of nowhere watching Diane and Irene, then Irene’s apartment is ransacked and robbed and her real motive for coming to Paris about to be revealed. No one seems to be able to trust anyone least of all Diane. Before we can get comfortable the author moves the scene to the Anglophile where a bookstore where Martin is hosting the open mike for Euan. But as Martin reads his work aloud Euan does not see the lust in his eyes for another. As Christian reads a poem the whole room is mesmerized along with Martin. The author brilliantly moves to the next scene with Irene going through all her late husband’s effects, his journal and letters and secret compartment in his trunk. Collin Kelley takes the reader on many journeys through London, Paris and then Memphis creating a unique travel log of pictures, information and scenery that any traveler could add to a scrapbook.
Irene is quite unique in her manner, her actions and her way of expressing herself. Diane is abrasive, Martin subdued at times and not at others and Euan in a world that he has created for himself. At times he seems docile and yet at others even though gay, more aggressive, manly and strong. They seem to play off of each other but there is still much more that remains to be seen.
Introducing the two detectives in this story. One working with Diane and who has knowledge of more than just her whereabouts and seems centered on Irene. The other detective is V. Hugo who is a by the book detective hired by Irene, without success to find Frederick Dubois who seems to have disappeared. But, might have finally surfaced after his mother’s death.
As Irene relives the bomb that took her husband’s life, Diane and Martin become immersed in a new world and life in Paris as she out of her mid-life crisis and Martin out of his predictable routine. Sometimes life changes at a moment’s notice and things that appear to be important take a backseat to the new and the unknown for both Martin and Diane.
The narrator relates the next phase of the story as we learn more about Martin and Euan and their perfunctory relationship. We also learn how much Irene wants to find Frederick Dubois and the strange incident at the funeral. The author does not allow the reader to into the minds of the characters for very long. The suspense is high and the intrigue even higher as you wonder just how all of the threads will fit together. Added is one Peter Seller’s like detective who seems fixated with Diane and Irene and less with solving cases.
But, David’s disappearance will take the characters into a world filled with drugs, corruption, cover -ups, murder and identity take over and much more. Paris is usually called the City of Light to Remain in the Light these characters are going to have to find their way out of the dark.
Martin falls blindly in love with Christian as the author describes their love quite vividly and candidly for the reader. Irene learns the truth about David and what Diane knows as Sullivan reveals it all. But, lies are about to unfold and one man’s life will be turned around as the final deceits and betrayals come more than just full circle. Martin will have a startling revelation before all is said and done. When the publishing company he and Irene work for is sold and the truth behind who might have bought brought to light you won’t believe just how the past and the present collide as author Collin Kelley will keep you in suspense and guessing until turn that very last page coming to the startling and unexpected end.
Searching for answers both Martin and Irene learn starling truths as the author reveals what happened to Jean-Louis and to both David and Christian. Deals are made, truths are covered up and many lives are changed forever. Just what really happened to Jean-Louis and who reveals it all you will have to learn for yourself? Where is David and how do all the pieces fit together? Remember: nothing is by chance, divine intervention and fate brings situations and people together. Just what this means you have to find out when you read Remain in the Light. Irene, Martin and Diane learn many lessons in life but one rings true: Friendship: Keeps you together and Love makes you do powerful and extraordinary things. Let’s see what our creative and talented author has in store for them when the third book in the trilogy comes out.
I won REMAIN IN LIGHT,by Collin Kelley, on Goodreads. This book had a complex plot, with several main characters all having their individual story lines. It was the second book of a trilogy. I didn't read the first book but I had no trouble following this story ond getting into the book. There were only a couple references that made me wish I had read the other book, but most were totally explained. It was a story of love, friendship, loss, and mystery. I enjoyed reading it very much. Thank youI won REMAIN IN LIGHT,by Collin Kelley, on Goodreads. This book had a complex plot, with several main characters all having their individual story lines. It was the second book of a trilogy. I didn't read the first book but I had no trouble following this story ond getting into the book. There were only a couple references that made me wish I had read the other book, but most were totally explained. It was a story of love, friendship, loss, and mystery. I enjoyed reading it very much. Thank you Goodreads....more
As with the first book in the trilogy, Kelley proves himself a masterful writer. Engaging plot, wonderful characters, and beautiful settings amidst the mystery and intrigue. Add to that a divine sense of humor, and this is the best of literary works out there today. I can't wait for the third and final installment!
Collin Kelley is the author of the American Library Association-honored poetry collection Render and the mystery/suspense novels Remain In Light, a 2012 finalist for the Townsend Prize for Fiction and 2013 Georgia Author of the Year Award, and Conquering Venus, both of which are now available in brand new editions from Sibling Rivalry Press. He is also the author of the Amazon exclusive eBook of sCollin Kelley is the author of the American Library Association-honored poetry collection Render and the mystery/suspense novels Remain In Light, a 2012 finalist for the Townsend Prize for Fiction and 2013 Georgia Author of the Year Award, and Conquering Venus, both of which are now available in brand new editions from Sibling Rivalry Press. He is also the author of the Amazon exclusive eBook of short stories, Kiss Shot. His poetry collections include After the Poison, Slow To Burn, Better To Travel and Render (2013, Sibling Rivalry Press). He was the recipient of the 2007 Georgia Author of the Year/Taran Memorial Award and the 1994 Deep South Writers Award from the University of Louisiana. His poetry, essays and interviews have appeared in magazines, journals and anthologies around the world....more