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Requiem in La Paz Paperback – April 29, 2014
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Praise for Requiem in La Paz "Jonna Gjevre writes complex, elegant fantasy with a beguiling voice. Requiem in La Paz is a dark and lyrical tale. Isobel Linden is a musical prodigy with a very unusual instrument, a tragic past, and a disturbing secret. Trust me when I tell you that you want to read this book." --Kelly McCullough, author of the WebMage and Fallen Blade series
"A rewarding and highly literate novel . . . [Gjevre is] an accomplished prose stylist whose language invariably rises to the occasion, whether she's depicting the beauty of a well-played concerto or the horror of an encounter with Death personified." --The New York Review of Science Fiction
About the Author
Jonna Gjevre writes fiction in sunny Colorado. A finalist for the Colorado Gold Award, she has taught creative writing in Scotland and film studies in the United States. She researched her first novel, Requiem in La Paz, while traveling in South America with a string quartet.
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Jonna Gjevre has an outstanding writing style. Lyrical and languid, it leads you through the novel like a walk on a moonlit night--slow and mysterious and enchanting. There were so many times that I got lost in the language, it's difficult to count. It's a style that perfectly supported the supernatural mystery/thriller that unfolds as you read: a little at a time, with a slow build until a final dramatic climax.
The setting was incredibly interesting as well. I knew very little of Bolivia prior to reading, but the book was so clearly well-researched that I feel like I could navigate the city of La Paz on my own now. The author has clearly stood on the streets she writes about with such beautiful clarity.
And the music! The way Gjevre writes you could almost hear Isobel play it. There must be knowledge here too from the author, so specific were the details of every note. Some others have written that the setting is like a character in the book, which I agree with. But I think the music might play an even more important a role. The music acts as the novels soul, and Gjevre weaves it throughout the story with a master's touch.
In total, Requiem in La Paz was a moody, atmospheric treat. I highly recommend it. This is one that will stay with me for a while. Or, as the author says...
“If you’re wondering what it means to die, you should probably know this: you’re going to leave something behind. A final cadence, you could say. A coda. You won’t be around to see what form it will take. But everyone you love will be caught up in its wake.”
I was most definitely caught up in the wake of this book, and I hope you will be too.
part that talked about music, its lure, and what a musician must give up to acquire something beyod a workaday appreciation of playing it and hearing it. Also I am rather unfamilar with the Bolivian myths so I was intrigued as to the setting and culture of the piece. For people who want a quick moving and yet deeper narrative this book could be recommended.
I didn't know of the Death and the Maiden folktale until reading this novel, but it provided a rich and beautiful tapestry for the story. I loved the way music was so intertwined with both the plot and the magic of La Paz. The descriptions of Bolivia, especially the delicious food, made me feel like I was experiencing the foreign setting right alongside Isobel.
And Isobel was such a compelling main character! Her struggle to understand how her past is affecting her quartet, mother, and friends was heartbreaking, especially as she grappled with the true power of her viola. I appreciated watching her grow as a character, culminating in her finding the strength at the end to make a shocking decision.
Overall, this was a haunting story with lyrical writing that reminded me of Chime by Franny Billingsley.
There is a curious formality to the world of the main character, Isobel. We encounter her and her patron at a party hosted by the Ambassador where (to me) old world manners in the form of using "ms. linden" and having males bring punch, etc, sets that tone for the rest of the book.
That formality brings to mind slightly older times than the story is supposed to be set in, I think, but it contributes mightily to the light flavor of Lovecraftian horror that is where the story ends up. Isobel breaks a statue of a local, Bolivian god, El Tio, and she begins to see a pale man haunting her audience whenever she plays her expensive, extraordinary viola, the Stahler. The old gods are the protector of the mines that gave her patron his fortune, and the very music that brought Isobel to Bolivia and has guided her life may be what leads her towards death.....
The details of the music and the details of food, language, and culture in Bolivia (Aymara, Quechua, etc vs. Spanish-speaking descendants) were interesting to read and felt authentic to me (a layman). I felt like Isobel was a strongly crafted character, but wanted more from her patron and the Norwegian doctor who both ended up feeling a bit flimsy despite the important part they played in Isobel's story.
The ending was a bit....unsatisfying in terms of Isobel's emotional development. The climax at the end puts a lot of changes and trauma into the pot, and the characters are shown in an epilogue mostly just going on with their life. But overall, a fine piece of dark fantasy with a lovecraftian taste rooted in interesting Bolivian details.