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Last Night in Montreal

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  7,604 ratings  ·  1,130 reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 247 pages
Published June 3rd 2009 by Unbridled Books
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Average rating 3.65  · 
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Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel is a Vintage publication.

What an incredibly absorbing story!

Again, I have no memory of how this book crossed my path. I can’t remember who recommended it or where I first noticed it.

It’s not a new release, originally published back in 2009, and is apparently this author’s debut novel. But, it’s new to me, as is this author. But no matter how I discovered it, or how old it is, I still found this book to be a very atmospheric mystery, and I’m glad
Andrew Smith
Feb 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First we meet a couple, Lilia and Eli. We learn little of them before they part – Lilia sneaking off without warning. She won't be coming back. From here we get snapshots of Lilia’s life before Eli. She’s a traveller, that’s to say she doesn't stay anywhere for long. She meets men, and sometimes women, striking up short term relationships before moving on again. Why does she do this? Well, the answer is revealed in a fractured narrative that sometimes left me confused but ultimately knitted toge ...more
Elyse  Walters
Sep 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Update: $1.99 Kindle Special!!!!
This is the first book I read by Emily St. John Mandel ...( it was her first book)
I fell madly in love with her instantly- and knew I wanted to continue reading her books. I have : read them all!
She was an independent author until
“Station Eleven”... the book which gave her a more wide spread name —
I still hold a special spot in my heart for this book - I noticed something about her writing so fresh - so clean - And the story is great!
I got to meet Emily after S
Justin Tate
Nov 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The desire to travel is explored in this novel through extreme and intriguing ways. Kidnapped by her step-father as a little girl, Lilia grows up living the life of a fugitive. Even as an adult, she can't quite settle down. She lives in one place, develops relationships, and then leaves abruptly for someplace new. Characters impacted by her runaway lifestyle make up the supporting cast, all with their own unique issues.

I can't say I didn't like the book. There's mystery aswirl on every page and
Julie Ehlers
Apr 03, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-fiction
Both the most American of road trips (dusty, dry, sun-faded, interstate to interstate and motel to motel) and the coldest, darkest, most noirish depiction of Montreal imaginable. The characters were hard to get to know, but that's noir for you. I suspect this book's haunting imagery, and its tragedies both extraordinary and everyday, will stay with me for a long, long time.
Mar 17, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
In anticipation of her upcoming new release, I went back and read her debut novel. The writing is fantastic, but the structure and characters in this book left me cold. I often had trouble understanding some of the characters’ motivations, and the thinking of all the characters seemed not quite mature.
Patrick Brown
Mar 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-of-2009
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.
Apr 23, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: indiebuddyreads
I keep trying to see what everyone sees in the work of Emily St. John Mandel but I keep hitting my head against an aesthetic blockage that I find hard to pinpoint.
In Station Eleven I took against the traveling Shakespearian troupe and in this one it was the random insertion of a family of circus-folk. I think that very generally both these books wander towards something whimsy-adjacent. There is a fancifulness here; the pomegranates, the manic pixie dream girls, fedora wearing detectives, and
Anita Pomerantz
Mar 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For me, this book reads like an extended short story in the sense that it is very interesting, but at the end, not every i is dotted, not every t is crossed. As a reader who likes short stories, I often enjoy some ambivalence . . .but for many, the ending just won't be satisfactory.

The crux of the book is a young girl, Lilia, is kidnapped by her own father, John, who stays on the move with her. Lilia's path crosses with three other main characters, Christopher, Michaela, and Eli. Unfortunately,
Dec 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
There is so much going on in this book. It begins with a mysterious feeling that doesn’t let up until the end. You just know there’s not a character in this story who will emerge unscathed. Mandel reaches down deep into the emotional realms where I kept hoping the inexplicable would become understandable. Much of the writing affected me on a gut level. There are those people who seem to live their lives skating on the surface of the world. Then there are some who become fully immersed in all the ...more
Mar 21, 2020 rated it liked it
I actually thought this was going to be an excellent read right up to the halfway point, but then things kept deteriorating, becoming progressively more overwrought and overwritten. Because this was a book group selection, I paid closer attention to structure and style than I might otherwise have, and so will discuss a few of the things that prevented me from liking it more.

The following sentence is representative of the writing throughout:

"Clara poured coffee beans into an ancient cast-iron gri
Johanna Schussler
Dec 01, 2014 rated it liked it
I struggled with rating this book. I didn't really like any of the characters, and I found myself having to suspend a lot of disbelief. The way Christopher treated his family, for example, and particularly his daughter. There were also some logical inconsistencies that I found distracting (for example, if Eli had studied French in high school, why couldn't he understand the phone number when it was given in French numbers?). So initially, I thought I just didn't like the book.

However. The autho
George Pence
Jul 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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,
Mar 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Last Night in Montreal is a menacing, tense, slow burn of a novel, in just the way I like. It was a slow read for me, not because I didn't enjoy it (I did, immensely) but because Mandel's writing, as always, demands her reader to engage, and take notice. I am sure that many of the criticisms I've read of this novel are justified. Yes, there are some twists of plot less credible than others, there are some untidy turns of phrase. I was prepared to forgive these, because for this reader, Mandel's ...more
Nov 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
I came to this book after loving Station Eleven. It is completely different in subject and setting, but there's a similarity in storytelling style that is wonderful. There are only obsessed characters here, each struggling for escape, to love, to discover secrets from their past, or to find or protect a vulnerable girl. It sounds melodramatic, but Mandel writes a gentle, literary tale....not a page-turner. ...more
Erin (from Long Island, NY)
May 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Exceptional writing, almost poetic.. Not quite a mystery- more a character study with elements of suspense. It’s broken up into a few different parts, and each 1 focused on different aspects (people & timeframes) of the story. I listened to the audiobook & both the story & the narrator were enthralling. An impressive introduction to an author I’ve heard such positive things about.. Certainly not all sunshine & rainbows but still a nice change from the nitty gritty I’m used to.❤️ ...more
Feb 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
C’mon, do you really want me to believe that Last Night in Montreal was Emily St. John Mandel’s debut novel? I’ve read all of Mandel’s novels, and I just finished rereading Last Night in Montreal. Although it’s her first published novel, Mandel nonetheless wrote it with her characteristic fluid, breezy, dispassionate style, a style that here masks the underlying horrors of her story. Last Night. . . centers almost unimaginable child neglect and abandonment in by a father and mother in one family ...more
Micheal Fraser
Jun 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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 o
Katie Long
Apr 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This one took a few unbelievable turns that put me off a bit, but man, can Emily St. John Mandel tell an engaging story. Can’t wait to dive into her latest now! 3.5 rounded up
Jim Elkins
Mar 08, 2016 added it
Shelves: canadian
Problems in Handling Academic Material in a Novel

This is a partial review because I am mainly interested in how Mandel manages the specialized academic material she brings into her novel. It's a writing problem: I think the material does not do what she hopes it will, which is to help give her love story the grain of reality.

It's tempting, in writing, to choose a body of knowledge to serve as a portable allegory for your story. "Last Night in Montreal" is a story about trauma and repression, and
Feb 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: indiebuddyreads
3.5* rounded up
Feb 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-read-2016
Lilia is a wanderer. She can remember nothing before the age of seven; her memories exist from the night when her father took from her mother. Her life has been one of perpetual motion ever since, nights spent in anonymous motel rooms and days spent hiding on the back seat of her father’s car, as they travel back and forth across North America. She occasionally leaves cryptic notes in the bibles in the rooms, and has a nagging feeling of being followed, but being the centre of an abduction case ...more
Jun 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved Station Eleven and was very interested in reading more books by the author. So now I'm reading them in reverse in a way, started with her latest and this one came out 7 years ago. Impossible not to compare and fascinating to see the author mature (most salient example is the moral at one point plated and served with all too convenient cogency), but the talent, the huge amount of talent, apparently was always present. This book was a smaller story, fewer characters, more reality based tha ...more
Feb 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
'How deep in our genes is the longing for flight embedded? We always were a species of nomads.

Absorbed from page one. Never wanted to put it down. Finished in a few days but I could easily have finished it in one.
Not your average book about a girl that goes missing. Intertwined with themes of love, kinship, friendship, family and being thankful. No wonder I loved Station Eleven if this is how good her first book was. A whopping 5 stars and worthy of every one.
Jan 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Michael Livingston
Feb 08, 2020 rated it liked it
This was super enjoyable - beautifully written, deftly constructed and with an interesting enough set of central mysteries to keep me reading on. Mandel is a brilliant storyteller and the pacing and perspective-switching is all handled really well. The characters though were all a bit empty for me - mysteriously beautiful young women, frustrated intellectual young men and a grizzled and obsessive private investigator - none felt particularly real to me. Still, Mandel's writing is so good that I ...more
Jeanette (Again)
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
Apr 19, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: library, friend-love, 2018
You'd think that a book about the search for an abducted child would be interesting. But when the child is mostly grown up and very selfish and not likable, it really detracts from the story quite a lot. She really messed up the lives of many people close to her and didn't stop for a second to think about that at all.

It's hard to like a book when you really dislike the supposed "victim". The real victims of this story were Eli and Michaela, people who took the time to care about this person.

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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.

She is the author of five novels, including The Glass Hotel (spring 2020) and Station Eleven (2014.) Station Eleven was a finalist for a National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Aw

Articles featuring this book

Emily St. John Mandel soared to critical acclaim and bestseller lists in 2014 with her novel Station Eleven, about the collapse of civilization...
128 likes · 16 comments
“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.” 27 likes
“She slipped so easily into the folds of his life” 9 likes
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