The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Title: The Lola Quartet
Author: Emily St. John Mandel
Pages: 288
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Unbridled Books
Pub. Date: May 1, 2012

 I hadn't read anything by this author before but had heard good things, so I was excited when I had the opportunity to read Emily St. John Mandel's latest... especially when I realized it takes place mostly in Sebastian, Florida. I grew up in southern central Florida and spent time as a kid at Sebastian, specifically Sebastian Inlet. And I rarely see anywhere around here used as a location in a novel.

The Lola Quartet tells the story of four high school friends who used to be part of a jazz quartet. It takes place mostly ten years after high school, though there are various flashbacks that provide a back story for the characters. Though the story is told through different viewpoints, the main character is Gavin Sasaki who has to return to Sebastian to live with his sister after being fired from his job as a "newspaperman" in New York City. In the beginning he finds out from his sister that there is a little girl in the neighborhood who looks just like him which, of course, makes sense because rumors were his high school girlfriend was pregnant before she disappeared right after high school. This leads to his searching for the girl and her mother, but some secrets and drama involving other members of his high school jazz quartet get in the way.

There was a lot of focus on how Gavin feels like he's living in the wrong decade; he wears a coat and a fedora and has always wanted to be a newspaperman or a private detective. Since his job as a newspaperman falls through, he readily takes on the role of private detective in searching for his high school girlfriend and possible daughter. This book supposedly has some noir elements in it as a result, but because I don't fully understand the concept of noir I can't really tell if that is accurate or not. I can say there was mild mystery and crime involved, but it wasn't intense or gritty in any way. Because of that I thought the story was really about the characters and where they all ended up ten years later.

This leads to something that confused me... I don't recall being given a time frame for this book, but it seemed to take place in present day. And since I'm about ten years out from high school, (2001!), the characters were about my age. And that's where it didn't make sense, because if it were truly present day most of this story wouldn't have been plausible. Nowadays it's almost impossible to lose touch with people; I know all about everyone I went to high school with because of social networking. So being unable to find people, being surprised at what people are up to after all these years.. those things wouldn't happen.

Overall, I wasn't blown away by the story or the characters, but it did keep my interest well enough to read fairly quickly. I do wish the sense of place had been a little more present.. it touched on the issue of wildlife in Florida and the creeping of it toward the suburbs as a result of hurricanes, but then that didn't go anywhere. This was an okay read and did provide me some recommendations for jazz musicians and history which has been a recent interest of mine.


Sandy Nawrot said...

I read Singer's Gun a couple of years ago and loved it in one sitting which is almost unheard of in my life. I'm sad to hear this one didn't blow you away because this author definitely has the reputation of doing just that.

Meg @ A Bookish Affair said...

I haven't read anything by Emily St. John Mandel but maybe I'll try one of her other books first.

Mrs Q Book Addict said...

I read her first book The Last Night in Montreal, and I really enjoyed it. I did have a problem with the setting. I live in Montreal, and the Montreal she described, didn't feel like the same city. I would like to try this one.

Ti said...

What you said about keeping in touch these days is right on the money. I'm sorry that little hiccup with time stood out for you like it did. When I notice stuff like that it does affect my overall enjoyment of the book.

Zibilee said...

I have enjoyed books by this author in the past, and had been thinking about getting this one, but you raise some great points, and now I am feeling like this might not be the most realistic book out there. I agree that it would be really hard to lose touch with most people due to Facebook and things like that, and the fact that Florida was not really all that well defined in the book also makes me a little tepid on reading this one. Very interesting review today. You've given me a lot to think about! I liked getting your analysis on this one!

Audra said...

Hm, I was sort of keen on this book purely since everyone loved her previous one, but your comments have tempered my excitement. I won't rush to get this one.

bermudaonion said...

I've heard a lot about Mandel's writing so I was expecting big things for this book. I'm curious about the time frame now.

nomadreader said...

I'll be reading this one in the coming months and have been paying close attention to the reviews. It will be my first St. John Mandel too, and while I'm looking forward to it, I'm also trying to limit my excitement as I haven't seen that one magic, glowing review yet.

Kari said...

I was excited to see she wrote a new book, and I'm wondering how my opinion will differ from yours since I've read and liked her other two. In both her other books, she takes care to set them in a specific location but never goes into a huge amount of detail of the setting. It's background to the characters.

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