"It's only words, and words are all I have, to take your heart away." —Bee Gees
There's something about Emily St. John Mandel's writing that appeals to me, an atmosphere of quiet wistfulness that I first felt when I read Station Eleven and drew me to purchase this one. The blurb on the cover calls it "elegant and hypnotic", and I agree.
Like Station Eleven, this novel uses multiple points of view, jumps back and forth in time, and features art playing an important role. In the former it's a traveling theater troupe and a comic book; here it's all about jazz. Combining a bit of crime thriller with drama, at the center of the story are a group of people connected to a jazz quartet at a performing arts high school, reunited 10 years after graduation as untold secrets are revealed.
The story is engaging but the final third of the book, when most of the mystery has become clear, is a little less interesting as we just wait for a resolution to the conflict. Also like Station Eleven, there are coincidences of characters somehow connected to others, some naturally (like people bumping into each other at jazz bars, because most of the characters like the music or have performed it) and some not.
I found myself more interested in the parts about the Lola Quartet in the past rather than the present, wanting more to be told about their high school lives. I started looking up some of the mentioned jazz musicians and songs that I've never heard before, immersing myself in the book's soundtrack of lost dreams and bygone youth. I recommend listening to the song "Bei Mir Bist Du Schön" as well as instrumentals by Django Reinhardt, who played guitar with only two good fingers on his left hand.