Martin Sloane: A Novel
When Martin Sloane, Toronto poet and playwright Michael Redhill's first novel, appeared in Canada, it made headlines for its decade-long gestation through 12 complete drafts. In an age when many blockbuster novels read as though they never saw an editor's pencil, Redhill's stamina and ruthless self-appraisal were enough to make him newsworthy. But all that attention to its composition raises a basic question about the book itself: was Martin Sloane worth all the effort? Martin Sloane, the protagonist of Redhill's elegant debut, is an Irish-born Canadian who makes dioramas from "found objects." Among these chanced-upon entities is the book's narrator herself, Jolene Iolas, a Bard undergrad who happens upon Martin's work and falls in love with the artist. Their affair lasts several years, until one day Martin purposefully and inexplicably vanishes. Achingly sweet in its execution, the novel explores what it means to love, as we follow a dual narrative: Jolene's attempt to recover after Martin disappears, and Martin's own childhood memories of Ireland, as retold by Jolene. "It's not really safe to love other people, is it?" asks Jolene's former college roommate Molly, in Ireland years later to help Jolene track Martin down. Redhill's book reminds us that love can be half imaginary. even Jolene's recollections of Martin's childhood must pass through the lens of Martin's inventiveness: one story that Martin tells Jolene and Molly is proven a lovely fabrication. Then, too, our sense of love is shaped by our own desire. In a surprise ending, Jolene visits someone who asks for information about Martin, to which Jolene responds: "Whatever I tell you about him will just end up being about myself." A memorable and satisfying read, Redhill's book leaves the reader with a child's sense of nostalgia and a sympathy for the impasses of adulthood.Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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