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Orpheus Lost

3.64 of 5 stars 3.64  ·  rating details  ·  415 ratings  ·  74 reviews
Leela Moore is a brilliant math prodigy who escapes her small Southern town to study in Boston. From the moment she hears Mishka, dark and slender, playing his violin in the subway, she is drawn to him, and they quickly become lovers.

One night Leela is inexplicably taken off the street to an interrogation centre: there has been an “incident,” an explosion on the subway; te...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published October 9th 2007 by Knopf Canada (first published 2007)
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An inversion of the Orpheus myth where our hero gets trapped in the Underworld and his lover Eurydice orchestrates his release.

Mishka, a half Jewish, half Lebanese Australian studying music in Boston, is our Orpheus while his lover Leela, a transplant from the Bible-belt south (from a town appropriately called Promised Land), studying the mathematics of music, is his Eurydice. In his quest to find his missing Lebanese father, Mishka gets involved with a bunch of suicide-bomber terrorists and fli...more
Alyssa Cooper
Someone told me once (and I'm sure he was paraphrasing from someone much more qualified) the most interesting stories are entered late, and left early. Orpheus Lost makes great use of this technique, leaving me desperate for origins in the beginning and eager for more at the end.
This novel combines real, gritty characters - all with their own individual personalities and flaws that make them, undeniably, into real people - a compelling story line, and a glimpse into some of the darkest and stran...more
Celia Powell
I love Hospital's writing, and I think even if you didn't enjoy Orpheus Lost, you can't deny the skill of Hospital as an author.

Orpheus Lost is a re-working of the myth of Orpheus - although any subtleties would have been lost on me, given that my knowledge of the myth is Orpheus seeks to retrieve Eurydice from the dead, and looks back at the last minute only to lose her forever. Our Orpheus in Orpheus Lost is Mishka, whom Leela discovers playing his violin in the subway. They become lovers, and...more
Ruth Seeley
Strange to have read this immediately before Anne Michaels' The Winter Vault, but I find my reading often provides this kind of inadvertent synchronicity, as if I were attempting to write undergraduate papers on novels with similar themes. Loss, the devastating effects of war-induced diaspora, and love as redemption are this novel's themes too, but Turner Hospital manages to create characters about whom one gives a damn. I often wonder why she isn't better known and/or taken more seriously as a...more
Beautifully written and enthralling from beginning to end. Through this novel we are taken into the heartache of young love, family estrangement, and the horrors of modern day terrorism. This is a very unique story as it is told to us from multiple perspectives, jumping from memory to present day. And don't worry, you don't need to know the tale of Orpheus to get this story, but it certainly deepened my understanding and appreciation of the plot and character development. Genius!

Characters are j...more

"There's a gene for melancholy and I have passed it on". Devorah Bartok, one of the main characters of Janette Turner Hospital's new book "Orpheus Lost" hypothesizes at one particularly hopeless moment in the narrative and, indeed, for those of us with this tendency to melancholy, recent events of world history have been a little difficult to bear. From the hastily constructed, clumsy rhetoric of the War on Terror to the seemingly inevitable exposure of the leaked photographs of abuse at Abu Ghr...more
Well, it is a good thing that I saw Metamorphosis at the Pgh Public, because it helped me understand this book. I believe I have admitted publicly that I made it through 4 yrs of HS and 4 yrs of college without reading any classics/mythology/etc. My aunt, a former hs AP English teacher would be aghast to know this. But somehow, I muddle through life ignorant.
Anyway, this was a pretty good book. Leela picks up and falls in love with a street musician Mishka. Her childhood friend/rival Cobb is a "...more
Alumine Andrew
Yet another fantastic novel by Turner Hospital. Based on how much I enjoyed The Claimant, I read this book. She sure can tell a good story!

Orpheus Lost is a melting pot where music, maths, modern day terrorism, identity and love all melt into one wonderful narrative. It centres around Mishka and Leela, who find each other in New York and who are torn apart by music, math and their identities. Leela is from the Deep South of America, brought up on a strange mix of fervent Christian beliefs which...more
Marilyn Darrow-Pinkley
What a fabulous writer. I read her first book, "Ivory Swing" over twenty years ago and decided I would read anything this woman writes. She has never disappointed.
This book explores the world of music and mathematics, politics and fundamentalism within the scope of love, passion and loss. Wonderful characterization and use of language
This was really a terrible read. Badly written, badly conceived story with characters that didn't work and were unbelievable and inconsistent.
I did not like this book, and gave up on it after I started peeking at the last pages for a conclusion. I found it soupy and contrived.
Moira Burke
"Eh. A modern Orpheus tale about a mathematician, a musician, and a bounty hunter. The writing was bland."
Tom Bensley
I kind of forgot that books this boring existed. I'm usually pretty careful with my reading choices. I only really read literature, literature from authors I've researched, whom I know are, if nothing else, interesting. Who usually create works that aren't of the norm so to speak, whatever that means. Anyone who looked at my ratings would see I mostly rate books pretty highly, not because I know what I like, but because I read what's worth reading. Therefore, even if I don't love a book, it stil...more
Leela is a mathematician writing her thesis on math and music. She is living with Mishka who plays the violin and the Oud - a Persian instrument. Their life is fairly normal, except that Mishka disappears for periods of time that he won't explain to Leela.

At the same time there are various terrorist subway and train bombings in the area. One evening Leela is instructed to get into a car and is taken to an interrogation room where she is shown pictures of Mishka talking with the person who they b...more
Emma Willis
Shifting between unlikely perspectives of a mathematician, an Army/ Security guard and a fragile, emotionally wounded and gifted musician, explores the terrain of falling into the metaphorical underworld of Hades. These characters make a fatal mistake and 'Orpeus', the double identity accidently becomes associated with a terrorist organisation. This novel is about the guilt, revenge and justice. It is also about the ramifications of uncovering terrain that is best forgotten. Like her earlier nov...more
Lyn Elliott
Feb 12, 2013 Lyn Elliott rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lyn by: Book club Feb 2012
Shelves: fiction
Hospital writes wonderfully, the flow and tone of her prose changing subtly with the flow and tone of the interwoven stories that make up Orpheus Lost. The overall feel of the book for me is one of images moving forward and then back, perhaps in the ways that memories appear vividly and then resolve again. Sometimes the light is bright, as In the scenes in Mishka's childhood home in North Queensland, sometimes muted and, in the underground 'interrogation' centre , very dark indeed. Somehow, even...more
Orpheus Lost begins its focus on Southern-girl turned MIT mathematician, Leela. She finds herself in the bowels of the subway drawn in by the haunting sounds of musician Mishka Bartok's violin. Shortly after, the two begin to date and eventually move in together. The novel is thick with references to Orpheus and Eurydice, playing off the myth on various levels. After a suicide bombing, Leela is interrogated by her ex-boyfriend and ex-best friend Cobb, who has become a mercenary and has a persona...more
This is the story of a genius female mathematician who falls for a brilliant musician with a sorrowful soul, then watches in horror as one of her childhood friends--now the head of a private security force in post-9/11 Iraq accuses her lover of conspiring with terrorists.

It's an interesting approach to the underworld, to the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, and at times, it works beautifully. But I hated the first 150 pages of this book, which struck me as unoriginal, overly sexualized, and unawar...more
Elyse Rudin
A young woman mathematician specializing in math's relationship to music, something I've always been interested in (not), meets a young man playing his violin in the Boston subway. They fall in love and live together. Suicide bombings in the Boston area puts people on high alert and one of the bombers had been seen with the young man whose background is a bit of a mystery. The man questioning the girlfriend was a boy she grew up with from her small town and they have always had feelings for each...more

It may not really come as a surprise that this book is like a modern retelling of the story of Orpheus and Euridice. Although in this book, 'Orpheus' gets lost (the title is already spoiling it, really).

Mishka is a musician, and ironically plays a piece of music about Orpheus on multiple occasions. He's also looking for his Lebanese father, which brings him into a world of terrorism. His girlfriend sets out to find him and bring him back. Sounds familiar huh?

The book has a lot of di...more
MsHunt Hunt
This started well, and I liked the dual narrative. I especially liked Mishka's early life in Australia. However, it seemed like the author lost track of some of her storylines, and they were never resolved.
Alana Von
I was expecting a story about music and was sorely disappointed. Perhaps if I had approached this book without expectations it would have been more fulfilling.
Celeste Rousselot
This is another of Turner-Hospital's books I just couldn't stop reading. A love story of strange proportions, Orpheus Lost entered my psyche like no other. These are not your ordinary lovers, a student and potential terrorist. As darkness and the underground environment surrounded me, I felt as though I could never hide, let alone escape, from the ever-enclosing underworld. Turner-Hospital, an Australian, now professor at the University of South Carolina, who also wrote Oyster, another fantastic...more
Andrea Karotkin
The descriptions in this book are fluid, graceful, inspiring...the words just pull me along like a river. Sometimes a paragraph is so vibrant that I want to dive into it and swim in the words. I even touch some of the sentences to see if they are real.

"And he would see, in the fluted wall of water beyond the veranda eaves, the shredded rainbows of moonlight and the ribbons of candle-glow that were tossed and tangled about."

If I owned a copy of this book, at least one third of it would be highl...more
The first half is brilliant and beautiful. The Queenslander in a rain forest is a fairy tale house.
Unreal but so real. I could hear the voices and music and feel the harrowing despair. It's the first book I've read of hers but won't be the last.
Carla Mcnaughton
By page 135 I decided that I didn't care for any of the characters in this book. Not a single one! Some passages a beautifully written. However the heroine is boring and uninspiring. Mishka is an insult to musicians everywhere. And the God Fearers in Promised Land frustrate me. Not to mention Cobb... What an asshole he starts out as. And not the well written love-to-hate asshole. Just wholly unlikable!

Not worth the paper it is written on. I'm just glad I have an uncorrected proof from a booksto...more
Absolutely loved this book from start to finish!!!
Sharon Albanese
I loved this book. The characters were engaging and appealing and the story had my attention from the start. I am looking forward to reading more from this author.
It was a much better retelling of the Orpheus/Eurydice myth than I expected. The whole novel was better than I expected.

It's a beautiful book. Its necessarily dreamy qualities are tempered by very harsh realities. The emotions felt very real to me. All the loose strings I expected would be ignored actually were addressed, and not always neatly tied up.

The only part I didn't like was the Berg subplot -- it seemed silly and I didn't understand it.

I probably won't read it again, despite its being a...more
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Born in 1942, Janette Turner Hospital grew up on the steamy sub-tropical coast of Australia in the north-eastern state of Queensland. She began her teaching career in remote Queensland high schools, but since her graduate studies she has taught in universities in Australia, Canada, England, France and the United States.

Her first published short story appeared in the Atlantic Monthly (USA) where i...more
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