Summary and book reviews of The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel

The Lola Quartet

by Emily St. John Mandel

The Lola Quartet
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  • First Published:
    May 2012, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2013, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Morgan Macgregor

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Book Summary

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.

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.

Excerpt
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 ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

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 Members Only (839 words).

Media Reviews

ForeWord Magazine

A rewarding read from a talented writer.

Publishers Weekly

The author again melds mystery plotting with literary techniques like shifting points-of-view, resulting in both sophistication and suspense... Mandel's novel excels as a character study that considers the slow degradation of hopes, dreams, and expectations of people who are only in their late 20s but already feel ancient.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Evocative, intriguing, and complex, this novel is as smooth as the underbelly of a deadly, furtive reptile. Mandel's substantial fan base will rejoice; word of mouth will bring new fans on board.

Author Blurb Michele Filgate, McNally Jackson
...[T]his is truly her best novel yet... I love how she combines gorgeous prose with an intriguing and captivating plot. Emily St. John Mandel is one of our finest contemporary writers.

Author Blurb Peter Makin, Brilliant Books
We're huge fans of Emily, who will one day be a household name, and who will win prizes. Big prizes.

Reader Reviews

Diane S.

The Lola Quartet
Four friends, and a girl who is the girlfriend of one and the stepsister of the only female, start a jazz quartet in highschool. It is their last concert and their last year in high school and they all have bright plans for the future. I can relate ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

What is Noir?

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.

Noir book jacket 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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