Be omnivorous, don't just read one kind of book, read everything. - Richard Wagamese

Monday, August 1, 2011

Review: Last Night in Montreal by Emily St John Mandel

Publisher: Unbridle Books 
Pages: 247 
Source: Publisher 

'The Last Night in Montreal' is a fast paced story filled with compelling, refreshing characters. Lilia, the main character began her life at the age of seven when she walked bare foot into the snow into her father's arms. Until she was sixteen years of age they were continually on the run, traveling in different cars, living a day or two in different motels. Lilia has no recollection of her life or family before the kidnapping. She is aware of a mother and brother left behind, but she has no emotional attachment to them. At the age of sixteen Lilia began life on her own. Her father had finally settled down and started a new life. Lilia on the other hand could no longer remain in one place, she never knew how to live in one area and is still constantly on the move. The book begins with Lilia leaving yet another lover. Eli a young man who studies dead languages. Eli, has a feeling Lilia will eventually leave him behind to continue her journey. Sure enough, he finds her suitcase missing and he feels lost. Eli admires Lilia, she takes action, doesn't just dream. Eli feels stuck in a world where everyone is talking about what they want to do but no one has the courage to act upon their interests. Lilia is a different sort, what she wants she does. Eli begins his search for Lilia and he meets Michaela. Michaela's father was the private detective on the Lilia's case. As a result of his long business trips and constant obsession over this case, Michaela's home life was destroyed. Her mother left, and eventually her own father disappears, sending money on occasion but never being her father. Michaela has her own obsession with Lilia, and knows many details of her life, details she doesn't know herself. Lilia and Michaela need each other to fill in the blanks in their lives. Eli, is desperate to find his way in the world. 

'Last Night in Montreal' was a great read. I loved the prose, the characters were original and very well developed. The storyline flowed beautifully and kept me wanting to keep reading. I do highly recommend this novel, it was great and I loved the eccentric characters. However, I will admit the perspective of Montreal was a little off for me. As an Anglo who lives in Montreal I felt the novel gave the impression that English speaking people were almost non-existent in Montreal. This has not been my experience living in Montreal. I've felt this in smaller towns, but not Montreal. Although, I cannot assume someone else would not have the same impression or experience as me. It was very interesting reading a different perspective of the same city. Emily St John Mandel is a great Canadian author, and I'm excited to read "Singer's Gun" next. 


  1. Interesting - I always thought there are as many "Anglos" as French speaking people in Montreal. Hopefully I'll make it there one day and find out first hand. The book sounds wonderful.

  2. @ Bermudaonion I can certainly see where Emily St John Mandel was coming from, I just had a hard time relating to that specific element since it hasn't been my experience. Perhaps, it is just something that I'm use to and I ignore.

  3. I have wanted to read this one for a while. I have had the same experience as you, but it could be different in different parts of the city.

  4. I really enjoyed this book too, but like you I was a bit perplexed by her portrayal of Montreal. In my review, I said that her Montreal was a metaphorical city, rather than the real thing!

  5. Hmmm now both you and Avis have me curious enough to look at this book. I never heard of this one until you spoke to me about its existence.