Overall, I feel very ho hum about this one. It’s definitely a good, solid debut novel that pulls the reader along, but it also felt kind of…forgettable?
I wasn’t pulled along at all, I just wanted it to be over. I’m disappointed because one of my favorite aspects of Station Eleven—its descriptiveness in “how people reacted [and] interacted, how they felt” —made me want to scream with boredom here. I tried, but ended up giving up on this one.
I liked it well enough, but upon later reflection, I agree with Shannon, in that I feel like I barely remember it, and I only finished it about a week or so ago. It also felt very similar to many many other books I’ve read, and didn’t really stand out as anything all that special.
Apparently, I’m the freak in the group today because I am positively evangelical about this book. In fact, I’m the one who browbeat Shannon into reading it! For that I’ll apologize, but I still think the book is a stunner. I can see what you all mean about ‘forgettable’ but for me that was part of the draw—that Mandel could portray something so major as child abduction with such nuance that it didn’t shock. And that the original act rippled out into so many lives…I was completely sucked in.
Lilia doesn’t quite work as a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, and it’s a fairly sexist term anyway, but she does seem like more of a trope than a character to me. That kind of oddball, idiosyncratic personality that makes everyone fall in love with her (of course)? I don’t know, it felt so overdone and it made it hard for me to care about what happened to her.
In that same vein, Lilia sort of reminded me of the character Sophie in The Life And Death Of Sophie Stark, in that she awed and amazed everyone she came into contact with, but I, as the reader, felt none of that allure and could not for the life of me understand why everyone loved her so much. Much the same with Lilia. Everyone seemed so drawn in by her mysteriousness or some other unnamable quality, and I just found her a bit selfish and unstable.
I agree with what both of you are saying—she did read like a MPDG. I found much of the way she acted to be tedious and self-absorbed but, and this is bizarre—it didn’t matter to me. She was not that interesting, I didn’t need to be invested in her. It was her story that kept me glued to the pages. And, I do think for a certain type of man, namely Eli and Christopher, her damage brings out strong protective instincts and attraction.
That’s an interesting point about the men’s desire to protect, and I can totally see that. Actually, that at least makes the attraction make a little more sense to me, versus her just being so irresistible. So thanks for that!
Anyone else really bothered by the scene of Eli sitting in the bathroom while Lilia is in the bathtub pulling out her pubic hairs with a tweezers? That seems to be a level of intimacy I can’t imagine attaining in only a few short months…or ever.
Eesh. Yeah. I think that kind of ties in with her mysterious allure…it just felt unbelievable and overdone.
Yeah, I didn’t get that choice either. Kind of the opposite of mysteriousness, right. TMI! Although, it could be a manifestation of her desire to have some control over herself and her life, right? A kind of compulsive control over her body hair and yet, she would have no qualms about just sitting there and doing it in front of a man. Privacy was not a concept she was allowed much of.
I don’t know if it was because of my distance from that character or what, but I just felt like the book lacked emotion. I didn’t feel invested in any of the characters, really. There was the pull of wanting to know what happened to Lilia as a child, but not because I was concerned for her or any of the other characters involved, just because it was the setup of the book.
I think I liked Michaela the best, because at least she was interesting. I didn’t really get her, but I sort of liked that. She was a bit unreadable and unpredictable, adding a bit of tension to the story.
Can we back away from the details for a minute and cut to the chase. Did either of you know the truth about Lilia’s abduction before it was revealed?
By the truth, you mean that the mother was abusive and the Dad “saved” her versus “abducted” her? I very much suspected this all along, and assumed the bandages on her arms mentioned near the beginning of the book had something to do with her mom. Add to that, the way the mom acted with the police—her affect was so flat, and she just seemed off, which was highly suspicious to me.
There wasn’t much that surprised me, either, other than Christopher’s accident. I thought everything else was hinted at well before it happened, even Michela’s suicide in the end. I think you mentioned it before, Katie, but this book feels like something I’ve read before. Maybe just in bits and pieces, all put together.
Wow, I didn’t see any of it. Who knew I was so gullible! I put Lilia’s bandages down to her father being the abusive one and that’s why he didn’t have custody. I do agree, Katie, the mother’s interview was a clue but even then I thought it was just a coping mechanism. I also thought Michaela was unstable but I didn’t think she would kill herself.
Let’s talk about the ending. I really really hated how the last bit fast forwarded several years in time, showing Lilia married, and living in Italy. It seemed to serve absolutely no purpose, and created this weird 360 moment that was completely pointless. Did this bother any of you?
It didn’t, because I felt as if, even though I didn’t feel much for her character, I did find her believable as someone who had suffered from serious repressed memories and once she was freed of those she could lead a normal life. Also, that didn’t feel like the ending to me because Mandel then goes back to Montreal and closes with Michaela telling Lilia the truth about her childhood. It’s Michaela’s last words that stick in my head.
Initially I gave it 4 stars, because I thought it was a solid book, although the ending left much to be desired. However, upon later reflection, and now having a hard time remembering what it was exactly I liked about it in the first place, I’m going to down-grade it to 3 stars, meaning it was fine, but not great. This might be a whole separate discussion topic, but do you ever change your ratings later on, and if so, what makes you do it?
I gave it 5 stars simply because it surprised me all the way through. Not just finding out that her mother was abusive and her father was actually saving her but Christopher’s accident and Michaela’s involvement with Lilia in Montreal and then her suicide—the tale kept turning and not in a way that felt forced. I gasped when Michaela stepped off the subway platform. I could not believe she did it and that both Lilia and Eli were there.
So, readers, how did you feel about Last Night in Montreal? Were you completely thrown by the end or did you see it coming? How do you think it compares to Station Eleven?