re:View – The 2015 Bookshelf
May: Glimpses of the soul

May hasn’t been a very productive reading month – but where quantity was lacking, quality has been amazing. This Bookshelf features two novels from one of my new favourite authors, Emily St. John Mandel, and an autobiography by my favourite contemporary pianist.


Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel
A short, intense and mysterious book about a woman who has spent her whole life disappearing, Last Night in Montreal explores how we become who we are, how we construct our existence on the basis of what we know about our origins, and how one missing piece of information from our past can change everything and bring our carefully constructed life crashing down. Filled with intrigue, intensely real characters and a kind of desperate beauty that will have you crying your heart out, this is a total knock-out of a debut novel and the first masterpiece in the career of a very exciting author.
Pens: 5 out of 5

The Singer’s Gun by Emily St. John Mandel
Another stunning work from the author who finally got all the attention she deserves with the publication of her fourth novel Station Eleven at the end of last year. The singer’s Gun follows the story of Anton, a man who has worked hard to leave his shady past behind and build a new, respectable identity, but finds himself dragged into the old and dangerous business again by family obligations. Part coming-of-age story, part tense thriller, this book takes us from the heart of Brooklyn to the darkest north of Canada to the remote shores of a melancholic Italian island while it explores the question of how much we can change the path life has put us on, and what price we’re willing to pay for a fresh start.
Pens: 5 out of 5

Instrumental by James Rhodes
I’ve written about James Rhodes and his brilliant approach to classical music before; I’ve been to many of his concerts; I’ve got every single one of his albums on my iPod and after reading his autobiography I can only possibly love him more. Honestly, what a dude. Instrumental, by the nature of the issues it deals with, should be a devastating, uncomfortable read. And yet this guy, writing about his childhood ordeal of sexual abuse, his ongoing struggle with mental health issues and his past attempts at suicide, manages to somehow lift this whole story up into a declaration of courage and survival. Yes, this book makes you raging angry – and it should. It makes you cry – good. But it also made me giggle stupidly to myself, it demonstrates what it means to be fragile and choose to be strong, and it offers a fresh and beautiful perspective on classical music. Rhodes also has a lot of very true and important things to say about the state of classical music as an industry and what it needs to survive in the future. And reading where he’s coming from and what he wants to do with music, I can only be excited about what he’s got for us next.
Pens: 5 out of 5

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