|Septimania by Jonathan Levi|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Judy Davies|
|Summary: This is a book of magnitude and a marathon of a read. The story delivers layers upon layers of interest, from historical detail to scientific and mathematical conundrums, all bound together by an underlying theme of missed opportunity. Although Septimania seems at times somewhat unbelievable for the twenty-first century reader, it is at the same time heart-wrenchingly sad and beautifully written.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 336||Date: May 2017|
|Publisher: Duckworth Overlook|
|External links: Author's website|
First and foremost a tale of love, Septimania delivers the frustrations and agony of two people who find each other and then lose each other, all on the same day. But what a momentous day! Life takes Malory and Louisa off in totally different directions but strangely their paths cross again and again. Malory, searching to uncover his past, moves to Rome and discovers great and incredible facts about his ancestry. Louisa, a brilliant mathematician, is head hunted for 'secret' work and is signed up by her father for a life time's contract with the American Government. She completely disappears from Malory's life and he has no way of knowing how to find her again. They are both trapped in their separate lives.
Jonathan Levi has chosen some enchanting locations to set his story. Oxford and then Rome are the first two places where the lives of Malory and Louisa cross. The beauty and history of these two cities provides a rich and magical backcloth, with echoes of the past at every turn. The setting helps us feel the romance of Malory and Louisa's story. The tale moves on to the US and we begin to feel desolate about the brutality of our modern world, and the hopelessness of Malory and Louisa's separate lives is stark.
Levi has created a loveable yet other-worldy main character in Malory, who lives a sheltered life in Oxford, trying to complete a PHD about Isaac Newton, which is taking him years. His character develops as the story progresses and he finds that his ancestry is surprisingly substantial and he has a great deal to live up to. We see Louisa mainly through Malory's eyes as her world of code-breaking is kept behind closed doors. She flits in and out of the story, sometimes so tantalisingly close that we feel we could scream to Malory 'there she is - go and get her!'
It's lovely the way the story moves around the world and through time. There are glimpses of the past, the present and the future, all entwined in one big romance. If anything, there are too many twists and themes, and the reader feels a little disoriented at times. It is certainly a book for reading all in one go, but at the same time it's so very detailed that plenty of accompanying cups of tea are needed.
I really loved the musical and mathematical references in Septimania and it made me want to find out more. All the historical detail was great and reminded me that we are all linked to our pasts in a way that is often forgotten in the rush of our modern lives.
I am already itching to re-read this book for all the layers of information that I missed first time around. (I have already read up a bit about Charlemagne in a history book). I really enjoyed the ideas about coincidence in life and the feeling that coincidence does not actually exist. But the sadness of missed opportunity was so distressing at times, that I really wanted to take Malory and shake him into action.
You can read more book reviews or buy Septimania by Jonathan Levi at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Septimania by Jonathan Levi at Amazon.com.
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