Mathilda Savitch – Victor Lodato

So I’ve decided to add Fiction Fridays every week! Yay more blogging!

I should point out that I don’t read a book a week (I wish!) because I spend a lot of time sleeping/tweeting/trying to write. So sometimes it will be more of a “hey, I read this book like 4 years ago and it was great!”.

But for this first post, I’ll talk about a book I finished reading in LESS THAN A WEEK (I don’t know the last time this happened. Actually, I think I did the same thing a couple of weeks ago, but I didn’t have the idea for Fiction Fridays at the time).

Anyway:

Yesterday I finished reading Victor Lodato’s debut novel, Mathilda Savitch. Here is the cover and a short synopsis (from Amazon):

http://suchabooknerd.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/mathilda.jpg

“A fiercely funny and touching debut novel of a young girl uncovering the truth about her sister’s death.

Fear doesn’t come naturally to Mathilda Savitch. She prefers to look directly at things nobody else can even mention: for example, her beloved older sister’s death. She was pushed in front of a train by a man who is still on the loose, and after a year of searching for clues, Mathilda has come no closer to the truth about Helene’s murder…until she cracks her email password and a whole secret life emerges — one that swiftly draws Mathilda into her sister’s world of clouded motives and strange emotions. If she can find the keys to Helene’s past, she’s sure she can wake her family from their nightmare of grief. But in crossing into that underworld and tracing her sister’s footsteps, she has to risk everything that matters to her.

Mathilda Savitch is a poignant, furiously funny, and tender page-turner from an extraordinary debut novelist.”

I didn’t realize they used the word “poignant” in this synopsis…but it’s the exact same word I used to describe it. I wouldn’t necessarily call it “fiercely funny”, but toward the beginning, when Mathilda is describing her classmates, you catch a glimpse of how precocious she is.

There were funny parts and there were sad parts. There were moments when I forgot how old Mathilda was (I think she was only 12 or 13, but I don’t remember if her age was specifically mentioned) because of the immensity of her thoughts. This was my favourite passage:

“The problem is, at a certain point you can’t stop thinking even if you want.

I swear, sometimes you just wish you could go back into the dark like a primitive person.

But you can’t, that’s the problem with evolution.

Once you have a little bit of knowledge, more of it just keeps coming at you like birds around a bagel.

Sometimes when I learn things, I wish I hadn’t learned them” (pg 120).

Brilliant and true. That moment stuck out to me because it’s a sentiment I’m familiar with, and here is a pre-teen character putting my thoughts into words.

Lodato’s style is unique and…different, for lack of a better word. I explained it to Ro as “stream of consciousness except with proper punctuation”. Some of Mathilda’s thoughts are disjointed and you’re not entirely sure where’s she’s going with them. Most of the time, they link back up with whatever she’s experiencing at the time, but occasionally they appear apropos of nothing. It doesn’t affect your comprehension of the story – if anything, it gives you better insight into Mathilda’s character.

Not to spoil the ending, but when she “solves” the mystery of Helene’s death, it’s an emotional moment that explains a whole lot about Mathilda.

I’m incapable of rating books (or music or anything, really) with a standard star system (i.e. FIVE STARS, DEFINITELY RECOMMENDED), so I’ll sum it up like this:

It takes a heavy topic (again, not spoiling anything, but it has to do with Helene’s death) and explains it from the point of view of a child. And that will stick with you, not necessarily in the front of your brain, but curled up somewhere in the back. I imagine I’ll randomly remember parts of this story when I least expect it.

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