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The Singer's Gun

A book by Emily St. John Mandel

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"It takes so much to come here and I've left so much behind."

  • May 3, 2010
Rating:
+4
Mandel salts her unusual novel with equally odd characters, a man who sells passports and social security cards to immigrants, a family that lives on the shady side of the law and all that entails, a Canadian willing to take the risk of a new life in America and a self-contained, unpredictable musician who balks, but finally commits to marriage and a honeymoon on Ischia. When Anton Maker and his bride, Sophie, arrive on the island, it should be the beginning of the next chapter of their lives. But Anton has consented to one more job for his cousin, Aria, and Sophie cannot fathom the strange behavior of her new husband. To say that Anton has been less than honest with Sophie is an understatement, but Anton is not at his best, his future in corporate world threatened by a series of interviews that have revealed his Harvard diploma as a sham, only the tip of an iceberg. A State Department investigator is quietly closing in on Anton's past.

The crux of this novel is found in the contrast between the real and the false, the moral ambiguity between white and black, even menace diluted on the breeze of a Mediterranean island where a cloudless blue sky and infinite ocean promise only serenity. The looming danger is barely tangible, swept away by the mournful notes of Sophie's music or the solitary musings of a man who has lost his way. A subtle tension hums as Anton remains on Ischia to perform his final task. And as the stories of various characters are revealed like whispered secrets that blur the lines between right and wrong, it is clear than Anton's dishonesty is not the only cause of an escalating situation. The search for love and connection drives a confused protagonist who hopes to trick fate with good intentions but learns that nothing can be purchased on the dreams of others but pain.

From corporate New York to a city apartment filled with the piercing notes of a dedicated musician and a sleepy one-eyed cat, from a dedicated investigator who worries that her perseverance takes her too far from the needs of family too often to the secret love affair of a secretary with her boss and the cargo ships that deliver desperate immigrants packed in shipping containers, Mantel mixes the normal with the criminal, hope with risk and the choices that skirt the law with unintended, if predictable consequences. A pied piper who leads the way with deft touch and elegant prose, the painful truth of this novel is revealed in the denouement, where happiness can only be purchased at a tragic price. Luan Gaines/2010.

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About the reviewer
Luan Gaines ()
Ranked #109
An artist/writer, I have traveled the world, walked on the moon and learned the complicated language of humanity, the enormity of the universe... all through the written word. My first passport was a … more
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Wiki

Mandel (Last Night in Montreal) attempts a globe-spanning crime novel, but the clunky, lukewarm result will please neither thriller aficionados nor more literary-minded readers. Anton Waker, a Manhattan water systems consultant, finds that his world is slowly imploding as his shadowy past as a document forger comes back to haunt him. Compounding his troubles is his alluring and Machiavellian cousin, Aria Waker, who is conspiring to reel him back in for one last big score. All the while, hard-nosed State Department G-woman Alexandra Broden is closing in on the forgery ring. Along the way—the narrative travels from New York to Canada to Italy—Anton must also come to grips with his crumbling marriage and an office romance. While Mandel's prose is brisk, the narrative reads like a slightly dressed-up B-movie screenplay—flat, stocked with one-dimensional characters, and relying on awkward flashbacks to explain away character motivations. But the biggest problem is the narrative's blandness: the sex isn't sexy and the violence isn't especially violent.(May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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ISBN-10: 1936071649
ISBN-13: 978-1936071647
Author: Emily St. John Mandel
Publisher: Unbridled Books

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