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Last Night in Montreal
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Last Night in Montreal

3.47 of 5 stars 3.47  ·  rating details  ·  1,087 ratings  ·  279 reviews
Lilia Albert has been leaving people behind for 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 with way, possibly still followed by a private detectiv...more
Kindle Edition
Published (first published January 1st 2009)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,637)
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Patrick Brown
The best debut novel I've read in years. Mandel writes with confidence and creates compelling characters around dark secrets and half-forgotten memories. This is the kind of book that stays with you long after it's over.
I am dumbfounded that this is a debut novel. The pacing is impeccable, the characters are intriguing and well developed. The details the author chooses to highlight are poetic and evocative, and the paragraphs are well crafted. My one critique (and this has nothing to do with the author) is that the cover image is a little TOO specific to the story. I might have chosen something from the earlier part of Lilia's story, like a stark motel room or the isolated payphone, something that captures a sp...more
George Pence
I thought this was a terrific book.

Let's start with the premise, a young man in New York wakes up with the woman he loves, and whom he thinks he knows quite well. Then, in a way that is normal and routine, she announces she's going to pick up a few items at the corner store. However, she does not return. No note, no phone call, nothing. Soon he discovers that she's traveled to Montreal, but there's no evidence she plans to come back, or even that she plans to stay in Montreal.


I guarantee,...more
Two stars doesn't seem like very many for a book that an notoriously slow reader (moi) spent basically just one Saturday reading and maybe I would give it three but I'm still a little annoyed by the ending. I have to agree that the structure and pacing of this mysterious non-mystery book is impressive and clearly a breezy and interesting read. However, it also contains one of my least favorite stock characters -- stock character is too harsh -- in fiction. Oh Lilia of the short dark hair who is...more
Athira (Reading on a Rainy Day)
Intense! That's what I thought once I turned over the last page. I read this right after White Oleander, so my mind is now in a huge philosophical introspection phase!

My opinion
Last Night in Montreal is a story that masterfully interweaves several complex elements. Lilia has been traveling for years, ever since her father abducted her from her home, when she was seven. For a long time, Lilia and her father were on the road. They kept moving from town to town. Lilia soon learned to read a map, ho...more
Micheal Fraser
This novel is why I became a bookseller and why after 23 years I remain one. To come across a gem like this makes slogging through many many other books we read, ones that may be goodish,or ordinary or even bad, all worthwhile. Her voice captivated me from the start and the way the story unfolds kept me reading it compulsively.

I have started to read aloud to the dogs in the mornings (don't judge - I am not crazy but reading aloud makes me slow down and listen to the language) and started them on...more
Last Night in Montreal is a rather melancholy tale set in the bitter cold of winter. But the author's writing has a softness to it, a gentleness that takes away the edge without losing any of the suspense or the strength of its message. Emily St. John Mandel has a way with words. Her writing is lyrical and yet simple.

On the outset, this may seem like Lilia's story. Her father kidnapped her when she was 7 years old, and, most of her life, she was on the run, traveling by car from town to town. Sh...more
Those Canadian novelists are something, especially the women. This stunning novel is the first from Emily St John Mandel, born in British Columbia.

Lilia is a young woman compelled to travel. After a certain short amount of time in any given location, she must move on, not so much because she wants to leave but because she needs to go. Like any compulsion, the reason for it is lost to Lilia in a cloud of amnesia.

The novel opens on a day when she has just left a man who loved her, who accepted tha...more
When Lilia says she is stepping out for coffee and never returns, Eli does not imagine the past he will uncover when he searches for her. A mysterious postcard from Montreal sends Eli on a wild goose chase that introduces him to a strange girl named Michaela and a few stories neither of them are ready to hear. Filled with a broken past, lost loves, and crazy moments at every turn, Last Night In Montreal is a wild ride with an amazing twist.

I absolutely adored this book. This is Emily St. John Ma...more
I'm in *aw* of this new young author. She's intriguing to me. Her book was beautifully written (SO CLEAN ---not filled extra junk). At times, I read her sentences 'over & over', (almost a poetic style)--- JUST lovely choice of words!

"Her voice was somnambulant" ....."her voice was a current through fitful dreams" ----[well, I'll tell ya....I had my own 'nightmare'---involving rushing waters-- after thinking about this section of the book]....NO KIDDING--- Then restless sleep ---(woke thinki...more
I think this is actually a 3.5 star book for me, but I am rounding up because it's a debut novel and shows the enormous skills of this young writer. I was really impressed with the structure of this book, which balances and braids multiple time frames and places. I read this in a few days and really enjoyed myself--the mystery and secrets build as the story goes on in such a delicious way!

My main critique of the book is that one of the story's main characters, or at the least the character we b...more
Tattered Cover Book Store
Joe says:

Wow. What a novel. I couldn't put this book down, and read the final 100 pages on a Sunday morning before I could do anything else. The book is a breeze and a joy to read, and the author's pace just urges the reader on and on. St. John Mandel is a great writer, and I'm looking forward to more from her. She's got a terrific sense of place, and created such amazingly well-rounded, realistic characters I keep thinking about them days later.
Elevate Difference
Emily St. John Mandel’s premier novel, Last Night in Montreal, is a cocktail of neurotic travel, obsession, and misunderstandings. As a child, Lilia Albert’s father abducted her and crossed the Canadian-American border, taking her away from her mother and half-brother. Once in America, they never live in one city for too long for fear of being caught by the police. Most of Lilia’s childhood takes place in a series of road trips, aliases, and motel rooms. Years later, as a young adult and after b...more
This book was really weird for me. Midway though I thought I didn't like it. Then when I was almost done with it, everything came together and hit me in the gut in a way that wasn't particularly surprising (the plot is very easy to follow and very predictable for the most part) but the language was just so--stunning that I went along with everything and just fell into this gut-wrenching hole the author developed. There really isn't much of a story going on which is to say it's not a particularly...more
Tess Malone
Last Night in Montreal is a novel full of loners, lost causes, infatuation disguised as love and vice versa, broken families, bitter cold, unknowable secrets, and betrayal. It all starts on a cold midnight in Quebec when seven-year-old Lilia is abducted by her father, taken across the border, and on a Lolita style roadtrip across the U.S. that she cannot shake even fourteen years later. She leaves lovers in every city, except one of them cannot leave her and tracks her down to Montreal. Equally...more
This month, my book club read Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel. I kind of hated it for the first 50 pages– mostly because it was following a do-nothing twenty-something living in Williamsburg, who was having a crisis over the fact that he couldn’t finish his thesis on dead languages and felt no fulfillment working part-time in a pretentious art gallery. Then, he meets this girl, and she’s so “different from everyone else”–she’s a dishwasher, but she knows 4.5 languages, reads vora...more
The plot of this book was outstanding, as was its craftsmanship in structure. The novel juxtaposes the childhood experiences of a girl continuously changing identities while on the run with her non-custodial father after he abducts her, with the impacts this case has on the adults involved. This is a strong showing for a first novel. However, it is also marked with some of the flaws common to author's initial efforts. It can be heavy-handed at times (i.e. the name of the town where Lilia & h...more
Laura de Leon
This was a beautiful book that pulled me into the lives of the characters.

I was fascinated by Lilia's childhood on the run, in seeing the effect on her as an adult, and puzzling the reasons behind what had happened to her.

I was hooked on this book when Eli explained his interest in dead and dying languages. Eli's character was lost-- not sure where he was going with his own life. When Lilia steps into his life, then back out again, he wants to help her, and to make sure she is OK. He pursues her...more
The breathtaking, lyrical story of Lilia and those who search for her begins and ends in Montreal, a cold city fiercely guarding its language. Lilia is someone who is constantly vanishing and those who love her are always looking for her. The search has enriched some lives and ruined others. As the book reveals more about Lilia's secrets, the reader is drawn in tighter, wanting, needing to know why she leaves and what she's running from. An interesting take on non-custodial parent abduction, it'...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
This is not a book you'd read specifically for the love of Montreal. The two big things I learned about the city are: `

1)It's extremely cold in the winter.
2)The people are fanatical unto absurdity about the "Speak French or get out" campaign.
The boyfriend spends a couple of weeks looking for Lilia in Montreal, but other than some street names and mentions of landmarks, there's no real sense of the city itself.

I think the author is a good writer and has great potential, but the story and charact...more
Part of a full review I published on my blog.[return][return]While Last Night In Montreal is an extremely complex novel, it is so masterfully written the reader is drawn directly into the story looking for the next piece to the puzzle that began with a father abducting his little girl. Rarely do I encounter a book so beautifully written with a complex storyline that is both devastatingly tragic and at the same time life affirming. I would recommend this novel to all readers and highly suggest th...more
It's like

You are looking for a pretty face. An intriguing face, that hints at a bright mind, a sincere heart, shy smiles and a touch of impishness.

You find it. But you just want to look, to admire, to fantasize, nothing more. But then she notices you noticing her, so she asks you for a cigarette. She attempts to light it, but with shaky hands. You steady her hands as you light her cigarette. She smiles, asks your name. You reply, she tells you hers. You talk, she smiles, she laughs at your joke...more
Josephine Merkle
Last 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 aft...more
Toni Osborne

This debut novel by Mandel is a breath of fresh air, quite enjoyable. It is wonderfully and expertly written to provoke emotions without being of any specific genre. The novel has its share of mystery with a psychological undertone. I believe it will appeal to those who enjoy reading novels based around a variety of topics and styles.

The novel brings together the stories of four people: Eli who follows Lilia to Montreal after she leaves him, Christopher, the private detective obsessed with Lilia...more
Lee Razer
When I was a teenager my family took a trip up to Quebec on vacation one year. I came back home with a t-shirt that I often wore for many years that bore the province's motto - "Je me souviens", meaning "I remember". A touch ironic for me, not only because I refused to use any of my embarrassing high school level French while we were there, but also because I did not remember those French speaking Acadian ancestors of mine who were expelled from Canada after the British conquest in the 18th cent...more
Violet Crush
Lilia is constantly running away, leaving behind places and people. She simply cannot make herself stay at one place; she has to keep moving. When the book opens, it’s Lilia’s last day with Eli in Brooklyn, her current boyfriend. Only Eli doesn’t know that. After the first chapter Lilia kind of disappears from the book only to appear at the end. The rest of the book is about Eli’s search for her and about Lilia’s past.

When Lilia was 7 years old, she was kidnapped by her father from her mother’s...more
An interesting read. At first I didn't think I'd like it; I found Lilia's charms to be overstated, and wished that Eli and his friends had some discernible sense of humor. But the story took off with Part Two, and I enjoyed following Lilia's journeys as a child, as well as the detective's progress tracking her. The parts of the story that followed Eli were the least interesting.

There are some interesting recurring themes I'm still chewing on. There are several characters who travel relentlessly:...more
Emily St. John Mandel's Last Night in Montreal reads like sketched notes in a private investigator's notebook. With chapters that alternate between the past and present and a variety of characters, readers will feel like they are investigating a child abduction case, while garnering a better understand of human motives and emotions.

"She'd been disappearing for so long that she didn't know how to stay." (Page 9 of the uncorrected proof)

Lilia Albert is abducted by her father, and as they move arou...more
Last Night in Montreal is forgettable for the most part.

The story is about a girl named Lilia who is in her early twenties and has a habit of vanishing. She tells her boyfriend, Eli, that she will leave him one day and disappear. Despite this knowledge, Eli asks Lilia to move in with him, and five months later she leaves "to buy the newspaper" and never comes back.

Eli is deeply upset by Lilia's leaving and decides to try and find her. Which is strange to me, considering he doesn't love her and...more
I'm reading books so rapidly at the moment that I feel like my standards for a good read are moving gradually higher. The other option is that there is just a lot of substandard manuscripts out there, they keep getting published, and I (foolishly) keep reading them. I certainly don't think anyone has to worry about the death of the book just yet, well, maybe only the death of the good book.

I finished this one a few days ago and I'm already struggling to remember what it was about which doesn't b...more
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Emily St. John Mandel was born and raised on the west coast of British Columbia, Canada. She studied contemporary dance at the School of Toronto Dance Theatre and lived briefly in Montreal before relocating to New York.

Her fourth novel, Station Eleven, is forthcoming in September 2014. All three of her previous novels—Last Night in Montreal, The Singer's Gun, and The Lola Quartet—were Indie Next...more
More about Emily St. John Mandel...
Station Eleven The Lola Quartet The Singer's Gun Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York The Late American Novel: Writers on the Future of Books

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“Forever is the most dizzying word in the English language. The idea of staying in one place forever was like standing at the border of a foreign country, peering over the fence and trying to imagine what life might be like on the other side, and life on the other side was frankly unimaginable.” 10 likes
“Michaela wasn't someone Lilia ever trusted, but there was a certain kinship; she shared Lilia's suspicion that the world might prove, in the end, to have been either a mirage or a particularly elaborate hoax. ” 4 likes
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