Review published on May 2, 2017.
Esther leaves her husband and job in New York to come to London to look after her dying mother, Lonia. She is also trying to come to terms with the accidental death of her son a few years before. Her mother’s next-door neighbours are Javad, a neuroscientist originally from Iran, and his student son, Amir. The story, set in 2005, is told from the points of view of these four characters and culminates with the July 7th London bombings.
It’s an ambitious novel with themes of loss, identity and betrayal portrayed through the main characters. I found it compelling and haunting. Occasionally, I felt that the author tries to bring in too many issues. As well as Esther’s struggle with grief, there are her mother’s memories of fleeing from the Nazis, Javad’s efforts to understand his moody son, and the growing atmosphere of fear and suspicion of terrorism. The word “fugue” in the title is well chosen as the novel is a composition of interwoven themes with an elegant, musical quality to the writing.
A compelling and moving personal read and a very good choice for reading groups.
Berwyn Peet 4/4
Underground Fugue by Margot Singer
Melville House UK 9781911545040 pbk May 2017
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