Gavin Sasaki is a promising young journalist in New York City, until he's fired in disgrace following a series of unforgivable lapses in his work. It's early 2009, and the world has gone dark very quickly; the economic collapse has turned an era that magazine headlines once heralded as the second gilded age into something that more closely resembles the Great Depression. The last thing Gavin wants to do is return to his hometown of Sebastian, Florida, but he's drifting toward bankruptcy and is in no position to refuse when he's offered a job by his sister, Eilo, a real estate broker who deals in foreclosed homes.
Eilo recently paid a visit to a home that had a ten-year-old child in it, a child who looks very much like Gavin and who has the same last name as Gavin's high school girlfriend Anna, whom Gavin last saw a decade ago. Gavin - a former jazz musician, a reluctant broker of foreclosed properties, obsessed with film noir and private detectives, begins his own private investigation in an effort to track down Anna and their apparent daughter who have been on the run all these years from a drug dealer from whom Anna stole $121,000.
In her most ambitious novel yet, Emily Mandel combines her most fully realized characters with perhaps her most fully developed story that examines the difficulty of being the person you'd like to be, loss, the way a small and innocent action can have disastrous consequences. The Lola Quartet is a work that pays homage to literary noir, is concerned with jazz, Django Reinhardt, economic collapse, love, Florida's exotic wildlife problem, crushing tropical heat, the leavening of the contemporary world, compulsive gambling, and the unreliability of memory.
The Lola Quartet
New York City was cold. It was early April, but in the world outside the apartment the rain was streaked with snow. When Gavin wasn't looking for jobs online or handing out résumés he was reading the papers - although not his paper - and everything was wrong: there were stories about people waiting hours to get into job fairs, increasing strains on the food-stamp program. There were suicides and lost fortunes, hungry children and people who had slipped down into new, previously unimagined dwellings: a van in the parking lot of a grocery store in Queens, a boat on the oil-bright surface of the Gowanus Canal, a relative's garage in Westchester County. He understood, reading these stories, how easy it was to sink.
Gavin had never been very good with money. He had several thousand dollars of credit-card debt that he'd been carrying around for a while, and it was growing at a rate that he wouldn't have thought possible. On the day he lost his job he'd ...
I suppose the novel will be called a mystery, and it certainly is structured as such. But Mandel's writing includes essences of noir and of the socially conscious novel, and she achieves - through effortless shifts in point of view, and a sparseness that indicates a real sense of sophistication - a highly literary novel.
(Reviewed by Morgan Macgregor).
Full Review (1079 words).
Emily St. John Mandel's writing includes essences of old-fashioned noir. But what is noir?
"Roman noir" is a French expression that literally translates as "black novel." Historically, the term was used to describe Gothic novels set in the UK, however, its contemporary usage refers to an American invention - the hardboiled thriller. Generally, "hardboiled" means that the novel includes an element of crime, usually with a detective at the center of the action. The style was introduced in the 1920s by authors such as Carroll John Daly and was made widely popular in the late 1930s by Raymond Chandler.
The label "noir" or "hardboiled" is closely related to the evolution of "pulp-fiction" in America, initially meant to describe a ...
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