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Last Night in Montreal Paperback – April 6, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A young woman with a habit of running away runs away yet again in Mandel's competent if unremarkable debut. As Eli finishes another grim day of work on his thesis (its topic: dead and dying languages) in his Brooklyn apartment, he realizes his girlfriend, Lilia, never returned after going out for the newspaper that morning. About a month later, Eli gets a postcard from someone named Michaela in Montreal telling him that Lilia is there, so he heads north, leaving (thankfully) his insufferable friends behind to natter on about art without him. His quest is interspersed with flashbacks to Lilia's childhood: her father kidnaps her at age seven from her mother's house, and the two go on the lam. Back in present-day Montreal, Eli meets Michaela, who happens to be the daughter of the detective who years ago worked on Lilia's abduction case, and together they try to fill in the blanks of Lilia's past. While the plot is interesting enough, the prose often feels forced and the characters sometimes amount to accumulations of quirks, whimsies and neuroses. An intriguing idea, but the delivery isn't quite there. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From School Library Journal

When Lilia Albert is seven, the father she has not seen in more than a year suddenly appears in the middle of the night and steals her away from her rural Canadian home. She is never again seen by her mother or brother. Instead, her independently wealthy dad moves her from one U.S. city to another, along the way educating her in matters both practical and not. Is he a spurned ex-husband who refuses to accept the court's custody decision? Or is he Lilia's savior, taking her away from something awful? When the novel opens, Lilia is a twentysomething Brooklyn dishwasher living with a disgruntled grad student named Eli Jacobs. When Lilia unceremoniously leaves him—a pattern she's perfected—Eli is bereft. As he obsessively searches for her, the story integrates the viewpoints of private investigator Christopher Graydon and Graydon's neglected daughter, Michaela, who has long resented Lilia's looming presence in her family's life. While the plot is occasionally contrived, the fast pacing and unusual characters make this a compelling first novel. Highly recommended for all contemporary fiction collections.—Eleanor J. Bader, Brooklyn, NY
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Unbridled Books; First Trade Paper Edition edition (April 6, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1936071606
  • ISBN-13: 978-1936071609
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #834,565 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Emily St. John Mandel is the author of four novels, most recently Station Eleven (Knopf, September 2014.)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Manda Kay on March 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover
When Lilia says she is stepping out for coffee and never returns, Eli does not imagine the past he will uncover when he searches for her. A mysterious postcard from Montreal sends Eli on a wild goose chase that introduces him to a strange girl named Michaela and a few stories neither of them are ready to hear. Filled with a broken past, lost loves, and crazy moments at every turn, Last Night In Montreal is a wild ride with an amazing twist.

I absolutely adored this book. This is Emily St. John Mandel's first novel and it was stellar. The writing was intelligent and masterful. The plot was new and exciting. I loved the structure of the story and how Mandel presented both the present and the past. I was drawn into this story almost immediately and could not tear myself away from it. I love that the pain and the hurt are so real in this book, but they are not overwhelming to the point of disbelief. Though you do not get a lot about herself from Lilia's point of view, I felt that I learned so much about her from the other characters. Eli was an amazing character and I really loved everything about him. He is incredibly brilliant and some of the discussions he has about the artistic world are just amazing. The references to linguistics and dialects have me wanting to research these topics after reading about them. Mandel did an amazing job with this novel and I can not wait to read more of what she writes in the future.

Review originally posted on my blog Draw A Blank.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Unbridled Books. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Donald L. Linn on May 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover
When I first heard that the protagonist of Last Night in Montreal was unable to remember her childhood, I was concerned about finding a cliched amnesia story. Not at all. Through carefully drawn characters and pitch-perfect descriptions of Lily's obsessions and abandonments, Emily Mandel drew me in quickly and held my interest through the final page. I want more.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By bookmagic VINE VOICE on April 16, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Eli doesn't realize that when Lilia leaves his Brooklyn apartment to go get the paper, she has left for good. Not until several hours later when he looks up from his graduate thesis does he realize she has disappeared. This is something Lilia has been doing since she was seven years old.

Lilia had not seen her father for years until one night, when she is seven, he tosses ice at her window and her home in Montreal. She immediately goes outside into his arms and they leave forever. They never stay anywhere longer than a couple of days, traveling around the US. Lilia writes in each bedside motel bible, unknown to her father variations of this: "I am not missing. Stop searching for me. I wish to remain vanishing. I don't want to go home."
Christopher Graydon is the private detective who becomes obsessed with finding her while neglecting his own daughter, Michaela.

Lilia ends up in Montreal after leaving Eli and meets up with Michaela who then sends Eli a postcard to come get her. But she refuses to tell Eli where she is until her own agenda is met.

my review: I LOVED this book. I thought it was meaningful and compelling. Lilia is a mysterious, tragic figure as is Michaela. Eli is caught up by both of their stories and this makes for a brilliant debut novel.

I also found the discussion of Eli's thesis on endangered languages to be very interesting, enough so that I am looking for a book to read more about this. I also found the language laws of Quebec to be fascinating as I was unaware of this. I also love reading books that lead me to other books or interests.

But Lilia's story is the driving force that kept me hooked: why did she leave with her father, why did he come get her, why even as an adult can Lilia not stop vanishing?

This is another fairly short novel that tells an amazing story in less than 300 pages. Run out and buy this book, I highly recommend it!

my rating 5/5
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By lawliss on September 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Ms. St. John Mantel's first novel is about Lilia Albert. At seven, Lilia Albert is visted by her father, a man that she hasn't seen in about one year, and taken by him from her rural Canadian home in the middle of the night. As a result, she never sees her mother or brother, with whom she already lives, again. Instead her father, who has his own money, moves her from one American city to another, sometimes not spending more than a few hours or a night in one place. Along the way, he provides for Lilia's education - she mostly learns languages while he's driving, upon which she is quizzed later on.

At the beginning of the novel, though, we know none of this. We meet Lilia as a twenty something dishwasher who is living in New York City - Brooklyn to be exact - and she is dating a young graduated student named Eli. Eli is in love with her so when Lilia leaves him somewhat unceremoniously as only she can, his spirit is utterly ravaged and he is left devastated. As Eli begins to search for her, he learns about Lilia and we learn about her at the same time, as the story is told through the alternating viewpoints of a private investigator (hired by Lilia's mother to find her), Eli, and the private investigator's daughter, who feels and actually is utterly neglected by her father's obssession in finding Lilia.

I loved this book - it was a wonderfuly, quirky and deep novel that kept me reading. I really wanted to learn all that I could about Lilia - she was so mysterious - I wanted to know why she did what she did and where she had come from and why she had been taken by her absentee father. Nothing seemed to be revealed at once and making revelations in a manner like pulling back onion peels also made this book really, really special.
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