Andrea's Reviews > Last Night in Montreal

Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel
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's review
Oct 16, 2010

it was ok
Read from October 01 to 16, 2010

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 hardly knows her at all. He even admits that she is a mystery to him but he likes her company. Lilia is a traveler who has never lived anywhere more than six or seven months. She knows five different languages and has dual citizenship in both the States and Canada, so she could be nearly anywhere (be it to live or just visit). Eli's best friend tries to talk him out of searching for Lilia, and then Eli receives a mysterious postcard from someone named Michaela who tells him to come to Montreal if he wants to see Lilia.

Eli is dumb enough to do just that--well knowing that Lilia won't return with him. And, when he gets to Montreal, Michaela won't tell Eli where he is for nearly two weeks anyways. She wants him to tell her a secret about Lilia that Lilia refused to tell her. When Eli finally does tell Michaela, she admits she doesn't know where Lilia is.

The chapters weave between Eli's search, Lilia's past and why she has made a habit of vanishing and being invisible, and we also follow the story of the detective who has been following her for fifteen years, as well as the story of Michaela (who is the detective's daughter).

Confusing? Yes, sometimes it really is. The problem with St. John Mandel's writing is that she weaves all of these characters' stories together, and brings their chapters into the book out of chronological order, so we will read about present day Eli in one chapter, then seven year old Lilia in the next, we'll read about the detective's cheating wife in the following pages, and then we'll learn that Michaela likes to secretly practice tightrope walking without a safety net over cobblestones late at night. It's ridiculous. But somehow, the story manages to work--but only at times. I spent most of my time scratching my head and wondering why any of these "clues" about the characters are important.

The problem with the book and the writing is that I didn't care about any of the characters enough to really want to follow them throughout the story, or learn more about their histories and how they connect. The only reason I completed the book is because my book club is reading it for the month. Blah. What a waste of time.

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