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A Perfect Night to Go to China Hardcover – February 26, 2005

3.3 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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A loving couple, grieving the loss of their son, finds their marriage in free fall when a beautiful, long-lost acquaintance inserts herself into their lives. Learn More
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Editorial Reviews


...[David Gilmour] carries his soul on his sleeve when it comes to his latest, remarkable novel. (Ottawa Citizen)

...powerful, irresistible reading. It's a muscular, beguiling work of fiction. (Vue Weekly)

This is one of those nightmare novels propelled by human tragedy...Tense, desperate, and haunted pages nearly turn on their own... (Owen Sound Sun Times)

David Gilmour has created a short, powerful book that is profoundly emotive. (Calgary Herald)

Gilmour's prose style is spare and darkly funny, jewelled with clever metaphors and precise details. It's enjoyably reminiscent of Raymond Chandler...A Perfect Night to Go to China is a compelling example of smart writing about trauma, and an uncomfortably pleasurable read. (Quill & Quire)

There is an icy dexterity in [David Gilmour's] writing, which pins his subject securely to his pain... A Perfect Night to Go to China is a book about loss, grief and the slim possibility of redemption. (The London Free Press)

...A Perfect Night is unlike anything Gilmour has written before, and all the better for it. (Maclean's)

... a profound meditation on loss, a journey into loneliness and despair and finally release. (The Globe and Mail)

...can be read in an evening, but it explores one man's troubled psyche more deeply and intensely than other much longer novels... it packs a punch. (The Fiddlehead)

Gilmour's prose has flashes of bright metaphor, and his dialogue is alert and alive. (The New York Times)

Gilmour is an adept writer, quite good at turns of phrase. (Edmonton Journal)

...lush, careening, exhilarating... Gilmour's playful, constantly resounding structure is thematically masterful... This seems to be one of the most refreshing, moving, and supple works of fiction written since the 21st century began... (Books in Canada)

Gilmour's sentences are direct and clear; there is nowhere for the reader to hide from the pain of a man who has lost his son, due, in large part, to his own negligence... Gilmour has taken an impressive route. (The National Post)

... a quite remarkable tale of love, obsession, denial and an apparent descent into madness. (Saskatoon Star-Phoenix)

Any respectable bookshelf has a few titles that act as support beams for the rest. Subtraction of those dozen most elemental titles means the bookshelf ceases to reflect its owner. The removal of even one or two authors' complete works and the collection loses its cohesion, the centre no longer holds. For me Toronto's David Gilmour is one of those writers. (XEN Magazine)

...compulsively readable.... It takes a sharp focus to give us this much in such a brief book. A lesser writer would have given us a leaden brick.... The amazing thing is that it is both a sleek, fast read and a compulsively devastating personal tragedy. When the story is this affecting, the result is a luminous reading experience, the kind we all crave - the kind we sometimes find, if we're lucky, in our favourite authors. I don't think it's going too far to mention such names as Camus, Graham Greene, Elmore Leonard and even Calvino...they all have style, intelligence and strength. Gilmour is one of the best writers we have. His new novel is exactly the kind of thing I'd love to see more of in Canadian writing. It's elegantly written without wasting time on irrelevant detail. It is firmly plotted. It is paced for speed. Something actually happens. I'm saving this book to share with my son. You might want to remember this one come Father's Day. (Toronto Star)

...powerful... profoundly emotive. (Calgary Herald)

Gilmour does an impressive job at creating a three-dimensional character in Roman. He would be so easy to despise for his weakness but Gilmour takes us right inside his soul and lets us see both good and bad. The ache in his heart sears the page with his torment. (North Shore News)

About the Author

David Gilmour is a novelist who has earned critical praise from literary figures as diverse as William Burroughs and Northrop Frye, and from publications as different as the New York Times and People magazine. The author of six novels, he also hosted the award-winning Gilmour on the Arts. In 2005, his novel A Perfect Night to Go to China won the Governor General's Award for Fiction. He lives in Toronto with his wife.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Allen & Son; 1St Edition edition (February 26, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0887621678
  • ISBN-13: 978-0887621673
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,223,358 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I picked this book up on a whim, intrigued by the title and encouraged by the fact that it got the Governor General's award. It's true the title has little to do with the book, but once I started reading, I couldn't stop. (It's not a very long book; it only takes about 1.5 hours to read, but it is so harrowing it feels longer.).

The author takes us into the mind of a person suffering the tortures of hell - the loss of his child through his own fault. It was the kind of mistake anyone could make (like "I'll leave him alone for 15 minutes while I run and get milk, he'll be OK" - except it wasn't milk, it was a trip to the neighbourhood bar to ogle a girl bad, so there can be no rationalizing, only self-loathing.)

I liked the fact that the main character was a superficial, unappealing guy. I liked the fact that he was short with his son putting him to bed, because he was so tired himself. That's real life. I liked the fact that after his son's disappearance he flips through his diary and it isn't filled with remembrances of his son, only with the remembrance that it was written when his son was there and is filled with inanity. His wife hates him after the disappearance and conveys this in the most bitter, true sentences "Don't call; I can't stand the disappointment when it's you." If he had been a nice guy the story probably would have turned maudlin. It didn't. The story, however gruelling, was not a bit sentimental.

The scenes where he hears his son whispering to him, leading him, where he has dreams so vivid they're hard to tell from reality, were all compellingly rendered. Thank God I haven't been through this but it felt true to me.
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Format: Hardcover
A Perfect Night to go to China was an interesting book that compelled me - because, as soon as I got into the first couple of pages, I thought, "Whoa." And curiosity sunk in.
Roman, the protagonist, makes the biggest mistake of his life one night. He leaves his little boy alone for fifteen minutes to stroll into a bar.
When he gets back, his son Simon is gone.
At this point, the reader can sense Roman's mental and physical descent. He becomes obsessed with finding his son, believing that his son is communicating with him. Whenever he sleeps, he slips into a world, seemingly of the dead. He sees his mother there and, even, Simon. At these times he visits Simon, holds him close, tells him he misses him.
Meanwhile, his wife doesn't want to see him, he gets fired from his job. His behaviour is strange and at times he does not seem all there.
I'll have to admit it was heart-breaking to read this book. You really get a sense of what it's like, losing a child. How it becomes the centre of your world. Everything seems trivial to that one big gap in your life. And what shocks Roman is that, at times, he momentarily forgets about Simon. For example, when he sees a menacing dog. He is surprised, shocked, maybe even a little disappointed in himself, that he could, even for a moment, forget about his son.
A Perfect Night to go to China was a clear and easy read. It isn't even 200 pages, and I found that I breezed through it. Gilmour's writing is accessible. I love the way he uses similes - you can always picture his images and he doesn't use obscure words like some authors do. His dialogue is also very striking.
The title still strikes me as a bit of a mystery - I can see why he named his title that, but I am just wondering, Why China?
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By Jim on April 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I normally do not write reviews, although I do read a very large number of books each year. I am writing this review to hopefully offset the lower ratings given by others. This book, if any, deserves a higher average rating.

The book was astounding. Fabulous writing style, compelling narrative, and expresses and elicits more emotion in less than 200 pages than many other classics of much longer length.

Reading the book jacket I thought the story sounded depressing, and initially, after I started reading, I thought that the book was going to be like many other Can-lit books - gloomy, moody and dull. The story was definitely sad, but not depressing. It has a very realistic quality to it and such an excellent writing style that you simply get carried along with the narration. Once I had started it, I could not put it down.

I certainly understand that not all of us will enjoy the same books, but the two people that gave this book only one star puzzle me beyond words.

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Format: Hardcover
Certainly the premise is "harrowing" as the publisher says: a father tucks his child into bed, dips out for a wee drink and returns home to find the child is gone. The disappearance of a child is a story that we're all too familiar with...just as we are with the enormous sense of panic and terror we imagine that a parent goes through at a moment such as this. The problem with David Gilmour's book is that the main character seems comparatively (and unaccountablly) untouched by the experience. I turned to my friend and asked "Wouldn't you be tearing your hair out at a moment like this? I know I would." Instead, the premise seems merely to have provided a pretext for the character to assume a kind of jaded, anti-heroic world weariness that populates so many novels of the post modern era, but has blessed little to do with what we might reasonably expect to be the real experience of losing a child. It is less about the feelings and thoughts of a parent who has lost a child than it is about the texture and tone of the narrator's own mind - all rather precious stuff as it turns out, and finally irrelevant to the circumstances of the novel.

A much better book (one that strangely enough got very little notice in the Canadian press, never mind the GG nomination it so richly deserved) was Bill Gaston's "Sointula". I highly recommend it. You won't be disappointed.

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