I loved this. I swear Emily St. John Mandel could write about anything and I'd devour it. This was a book about a Ponzi scheme, and yet I still cared about the characters so much that I couldn't put it down once I got into it. The first couple of chapters were slow for me because I very much disliked one character, but once the perspective shifted, I enjoyed the reading experience a ton. This is not at all like Station Eleven, and yet the author used similar elements in the writing style and storytelling techniques, which made the book equally as compelling.
None of these scenarios seemed less real than the life she'd landed in, so much so that she was struck sometimes by a truly unsettling sense that there were other versions of her life being lived without her, other Vincents engaged in different events.Once again, Mandel manages to weave a storyline between various characters that all end up interconnected with each other in an effortless game of happenstance. Paul and his half-sister Vincent both converge at a local hotel in their home town of Caiette, a point in their lives that sends them on jarringly different paths. Vincent enters "the kingdom of money" by marrying an older banker, and owner of the hotel, Jonathan Alkaitis. While Paul disappears from the narrative, the focus is placed on his sister's relationship and it's gradual unspooling as 2008 unearths Ponzi scheme after financial crisis that sends ripples through the lives of the other characters in the novel.
Despite my initial confusion at where this book was going, I found myself unwilling to put it down. A few of the characters were not necessarily likable people but Mandel made you understand their point of view. By having most characters fantasise about alternatives and roads not taken, most prominently in times of crisis or isolation, I found myself sympathizing with them. Vincent's, or even the shipping company employee Prevant's, ability to bounce back from the curveballs circumstance threw at them was comforting, especially in a time like right now. We, too, have to change our plans and take responsibility for our life, or linger in our own "Counterlife" and imagine what we could be doing right now if it weren't for Covid roaming about.
If you've read Mandel's Station Nineteen, definitely pick this up: despite a different focus it shares a lot of DNA with the other novel, and even some characters, too. But if you've avoided it until now or anxiety doesn't allow you to read it (rightly so, I'd say) maybe give this book a shot instead. It's oddly comforting.
Following the lives of people involved in or victims of an investment scheme, Emily St. John Mandel has investigates the mechanisms of self-deception.
honestly, kind of messy and ham-fisted in parts (particularly when it comes to the indelicately handled supernatural elements). loses track of its own plot a few times.
Beautifully written? Check. Fascinating, well drawn characters? Check. Originality? Check. I’ve never read anything like this, and yet I couldn’t fully love it. There are a lot of characters to follow, and there are certainly things that connect them, but it still all felt a little disjointed. I think I just missed what Mandel was going for, beyond the ideas of the corruptibility of mankind and...ghosts?
This may seem like I didn’t like it, but I did actually enjoy reading it. I love the way Mandel writes. And I am betting some of my GR friends will read this and love it, and I want to hear why! Maybe I’m not looking at it the right way. It’s a book that begs for discussion.
I love the author's writing style - that and the audiobook narrator saved this book for me. I really wanted to like the story but it's just not as compelling as it's trying to be. The most captivating moments were all the sly nods to the author's other, better book... I wish it had either leaned into that more or had a better "mystery" aspect to it. I can't even tell if the mystery subplot "reveal" scene was supposed to be that because it didn't really reveal anything that I as the reader hadn't already concluded.
Anyway, this seems scathing but I did love the prose and wish I could have rated this book higher.