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A Perfect Night to Go to China [Hardcover]

David Gilmour
2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 26.95
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Book Description

Feb. 26 2005

Winner of the 2005 Governor General's Award for Fiction

This astonishing novel - unlike anything Gilmour has ever written before - begins with every parent's worst nightmare: the disappearance of a child. A father makes a casual error of judgement one evening and leaves his six-year-old son alone for fifteen minutes. When he returns the child is gone and three lives are changed forever. Has the boy been kidnapped? Spirited out of the country? Is he dead?

The story that unfolds is told by the novel's narrator, a television host named Roman, who searches for his son through the city and through the underworld of dreams and tries to bring him back. Pursued by an unshakeable conviction that his son is speaking directly to him, Roman begins to enter a haunting relationship with the missing child and his own conscience. In the meantime, his behaviour becomes increasingly erratic and he is rejected by his grieving and angry wife, eventually fired from his job, and shadowed by a persistent policeman who thinks Roman is hiding the child. Written in the clear, elegant prose Gilmour is known for, A Perfect Night to Go to China is a completely absorbing and original work of fiction. It sets up a harrowing premise and doesn't let up until the last surprising page.


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Review

Gilmour's prose has flashes of bright metaphor, and his dialogue is alert and alive. (The New York Times)

David Gilmour has created a short, powerful book that is profoundly emotive. (Calgary Herald)

...lush, careening, exhilarating... Gilmour's playful, constantly resounding structure is thematically masterful... This seems to be one of the most refreshing, moving, and supple works of fiction written since the 21st century began... (Books in Canada)

...compulsively readable.... It takes a sharp focus to give us this much in such a brief book. A lesser writer would have given us a leaden brick.... The amazing thing is that it is both a sleek, fast read and a compulsively devastating personal tragedy. When the story is this affecting, the result is a luminous reading experience, the kind we all crave - the kind we sometimes find, if we're lucky, in our favourite authors. I don't think it's going too far to mention such names as Camus, Graham Greene, Elmore Leonard and even Calvino...they all have style, intelligence and strength. Gilmour is one of the best writers we have. His new novel is exactly the kind of thing I'd love to see more of in Canadian writing. It's elegantly written without wasting time on irrelevant detail. It is firmly plotted. It is paced for speed. Something actually happens. I'm saving this book to share with my son. You might want to remember this one come Father's Day. (Toronto Star)

...A Perfect Night is unlike anything Gilmour has written before, and all the better for it. (Maclean's)

Gilmour's prose style is spare and darkly funny, jewelled with clever metaphors and precise details. It's enjoyably reminiscent of Raymond Chandler...A Perfect Night to Go to China is a compelling example of smart writing about trauma, and an uncomfortably pleasurable read. (Quill & Quire)

Gilmour is an adept writer, quite good at turns of phrase. (Edmonton Journal)

... a profound meditation on loss, a journey into loneliness and despair and finally release. (The Globe and Mail)

There is an icy dexterity in [David Gilmour's] writing, which pins his subject securely to his pain... A Perfect Night to Go to China is a book about loss, grief and the slim possibility of redemption. (The London Free Press)

Gilmour's sentences are direct and clear; there is nowhere for the reader to hide from the pain of a man who has lost his son, due, in large part, to his own negligence... Gilmour has taken an impressive route. (The National Post)

...[David Gilmour] carries his soul on his sleeve when it comes to his latest, remarkable novel. (Ottawa Citizen)

... a quite remarkable tale of love, obsession, denial and an apparent descent into madness. (Saskatoon Star-Phoenix)

...powerful... profoundly emotive. (Calgary Herald)

This is one of those nightmare novels propelled by human tragedy...Tense, desperate, and haunted pages nearly turn on their own... (Owen Sound Sun Times)

...powerful, irresistible reading. It's a muscular, beguiling work of fiction. (Vue Weekly)

Gilmour does an impressive job at creating a three-dimensional character in Roman. He would be so easy to despise for his weakness but Gilmour takes us right inside his soul and lets us see both good and bad. The ache in his heart sears the page with his torment. (North Shore News)

Any respectable bookshelf has a few titles that act as support beams for the rest. Subtraction of those dozen most elemental titles means the bookshelf ceases to reflect its owner. The removal of even one or two authors' complete works and the collection loses its cohesion, the centre no longer holds. For me Toronto's David Gilmour is one of those writers. (XEN Magazine)

...can be read in an evening, but it explores one man's troubled psyche more deeply and intensely than other much longer novels... it packs a punch. (The Fiddlehead)

From the Inside Flap

Praise for David Gilmour's novels:

"Back on Tuesday is an up-to-the-minute psychological novel. It projects a special type of modern madness that I equate with the end of the human line." – William Burroughs

"How Boys See Girls is everywhere about the pathos of sexualized seeing, and it has the fascinating effect of a lurid confession, which is to say that it seems true as well as self-punishing, insanely intense, funny and very serious." – New York Times

"With Sparrow Nights, David Gilmour joins the list of inspired modern monologists that begins with Dostoevsky and includes Sartre, Camus, Beckett,Thomas Bernhard and Celine... Gilmour is a brilliant stylist capable of a range of extraordinary effects." – Boston Review


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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An intriguing read April 27 2005
By fiona
Format:Hardcover
A Perfect Night to go to China was an interesting book that compelled me - because, as soon as I got into the first couple of pages, I thought, "Whoa." And curiosity sunk in.
Roman, the protagonist, makes the biggest mistake of his life one night. He leaves his little boy alone for fifteen minutes to stroll into a bar.
When he gets back, his son Simon is gone.
At this point, the reader can sense Roman's mental and physical descent. He becomes obsessed with finding his son, believing that his son is communicating with him. Whenever he sleeps, he slips into a world, seemingly of the dead. He sees his mother there and, even, Simon. At these times he visits Simon, holds him close, tells him he misses him.
Meanwhile, his wife doesn't want to see him, he gets fired from his job. His behaviour is strange and at times he does not seem all there.
I'll have to admit it was heart-breaking to read this book. You really get a sense of what it's like, losing a child. How it becomes the centre of your world. Everything seems trivial to that one big gap in your life. And what shocks Roman is that, at times, he momentarily forgets about Simon. For example, when he sees a menacing dog. He is surprised, shocked, maybe even a little disappointed in himself, that he could, even for a moment, forget about his son.
A Perfect Night to go to China was a clear and easy read. It isn't even 200 pages, and I found that I breezed through it. Gilmour's writing is accessible. I love the way he uses similes - you can always picture his images and he doesn't use obscure words like some authors do. His dialogue is also very striking.
The title still strikes me as a bit of a mystery - I can see why he named his title that, but I am just wondering, Why China?
Read more ›
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
This is an interesting "stream of consciousness" novel, told from the point of view of a father who's son has disappeared. The language is eloquent and there are some interesting observations made by a man who seems to have fallen out of sync with the rest of the world. The book ponders the question of now that he's lost his son, does the rest of the world matter anymore? All the things he once thought were important are meaningless now. However, in terms of actual story, plotting, interesting developments, resolution to the conflict, this novel is terrible and sadly lacking. The characters and settings aren't really developed. There's very little back-story or history to anyone. It's just random, depressing thoughts spinning around in the protagonist's head as he spirals down into depression and, I think, eventual insanity. This is not a thriller, suspense, or mystery story---which is what I expected I'd be reading when I picked up this book. If you want to read a novel about a father losing his grip on reality after the disappearance of a child, this book is for you. Otherwise, I'd skip it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Heartbreaking but Unbelievable June 8 2008
By Teddy
Format:Hardcover
The book opens with Roman tucking his 6-year-old son in for the night. He then decides to leave the house, with his son in it, to go to a bar down the street for a quick drink. He's gone about 15 minutes. When he returns, his son is missing.

Throughout the book we follow Roman on a remorseful journey. A journey of regret, sorrow, relationship problems, searching, and all those things that normally go with loss.

I really wanted to like this book and I did, I just didn't love it. David Gilmour really has a way with words, and this really shines through. His mature prose was sometimes poetic, sparkled with some dark humour.

The major problem I had with this book was that every time Roman would dream, they would be in sequence. It's like he planned it that way and he could do this at will. We don't dream that way. I sometimes wish we did, because I have had dreams that I wish would continue the next time that I fell asleep. LOL!

I think with Gilmour's talent, he could have done much more with this book. That said, this is the first David Gilmour book I have read, but I will definitely try another.
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5 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A self-obsessed journey that travels nowhere June 16 2005
Format:Hardcover
This is a self-indulgant, obsessive novel that is more concerned
with the mind of the narrator, rather than truely expressing
the grief of a lost child. I couldn't get past the obsessive
mind games the narrator plays, and I had little sympathy for
his plight. It isn't that I place blame on the loss of his child,
it is that he is so in tune with his misery that he inflicts
on everyone around himself (and sees himself as so much of the
victim) that it was difficult to sympathize with his plight.
And why doesn't his wife have a first name? There is literary
game playing that goes on here, more narrative tricks with mood
and atmosphere then a real attempt to reach the reader and engage
him somewhere. The ending is pointless. I most unimpressed with
this novel.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.2 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Harrowing Read Jan. 5 2006
By cilisi - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I picked this book up on a whim, intrigued by the title and encouraged by the fact that it got the Governor General's award. It's true the title has little to do with the book, but once I started reading, I couldn't stop. (It's not a very long book; it only takes about 1.5 hours to read, but it is so harrowing it feels longer.).

The author takes us into the mind of a person suffering the tortures of hell - the loss of his child through his own fault. It was the kind of mistake anyone could make (like "I'll leave him alone for 15 minutes while I run and get milk, he'll be OK" - except it wasn't milk, it was a trip to the neighbourhood bar to ogle a girl bad, so there can be no rationalizing, only self-loathing.)

I liked the fact that the main character was a superficial, unappealing guy. I liked the fact that he was short with his son putting him to bed, because he was so tired himself. That's real life. I liked the fact that after his son's disappearance he flips through his diary and it isn't filled with remembrances of his son, only with the remembrance that it was written when his son was there and is filled with inanity. His wife hates him after the disappearance and conveys this in the most bitter, true sentences "Don't call; I can't stand the disappointment when it's you." If he had been a nice guy the story probably would have turned maudlin. It didn't. The story, however gruelling, was not a bit sentimental.

The scenes where he hears his son whispering to him, leading him, where he has dreams so vivid they're hard to tell from reality, were all compellingly rendered. Thank God I haven't been through this but it felt true to me. When I finished the book I cried, not out of sadness but at the horror of it all, and then brought my 3-year-old into my bed where I could feel she was safe. Unlike Fiona, I would never recommend this book to someone who has lost a child. I wouldn't even recommend it to half the people I know who have a child; they worry enough already. In my opinion, this book is a tour de force, as the author makes a horror that most of us can't imagine invade every detail of life in a real and terrible way.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An intriguing read April 27 2005
By fiona - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
A Perfect Night to go to China was an interesting book that compelled me - because, as soon as I got into the first couple of pages, I thought, "Whoa." And curiosity sunk in.
Roman, the protagonist, makes the biggest mistake of his life one night. He leaves his little boy alone for fifteen minutes to stroll into a bar.
When he gets back, his son Simon is gone.
At this point, the reader can sense Roman's mental and physical descent. He becomes obsessed with finding his son, believing that his son is communicating with him. Whenever he sleeps, he slips into a world, seemingly of the dead. He sees his mother there and, even, Simon. At these times he visits Simon, holds him close, tells him he misses him.
Meanwhile, his wife doesn't want to see him, he gets fired from his job. His behaviour is strange and at times he does not seem all there.
I'll have to admit it was heart-breaking to read this book. You really get a sense of what it's like, losing a child. How it becomes the centre of your world. Everything seems trivial to that one big gap in your life. And what shocks Roman is that, at times, he momentarily forgets about Simon. For example, when he sees a menacing dog. He is surprised, shocked, maybe even a little disappointed in himself, that he could, even for a moment, forget about his son.
A Perfect Night to go to China was a clear and easy read. It isn't even 200 pages, and I found that I breezed through it. Gilmour's writing is accessible. I love the way he uses similes - you can always picture his images and he doesn't use obscure words like some authors do. His dialogue is also very striking.
The title still strikes me as a bit of a mystery - I can see why he named his title that, but I am just wondering, Why China?
All in all, A Perfect Night to go to China is recommended. I'd recommend it especially to parents who have suffered the loss of a child, although that isn't a requirement. I am only 17 years old and I found this book intriguing. It is different, and that's what makes it original.
This is some fine work.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent April 24 2006
By Jim - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I normally do not write reviews, although I do read a very large number of books each year. I am writing this review to hopefully offset the lower ratings given by others. This book, if any, deserves a higher average rating.

The book was astounding. Fabulous writing style, compelling narrative, and expresses and elicits more emotion in less than 200 pages than many other classics of much longer length.

Reading the book jacket I thought the story sounded depressing, and initially, after I started reading, I thought that the book was going to be like many other Can-lit books - gloomy, moody and dull. The story was definitely sad, but not depressing. It has a very realistic quality to it and such an excellent writing style that you simply get carried along with the narration. Once I had started it, I could not put it down.

I certainly understand that not all of us will enjoy the same books, but the two people that gave this book only one star puzzle me beyond words.

Jim
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars World weary posturing Aug. 10 2006
By David W. Kosub - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Certainly the premise is "harrowing" as the publisher says: a father tucks his child into bed, dips out for a wee drink and returns home to find the child is gone. The disappearance of a child is a story that we're all too familiar with...just as we are with the enormous sense of panic and terror we imagine that a parent goes through at a moment such as this. The problem with David Gilmour's book is that the main character seems comparatively (and unaccountablly) untouched by the experience. I turned to my friend and asked "Wouldn't you be tearing your hair out at a moment like this? I know I would." Instead, the premise seems merely to have provided a pretext for the character to assume a kind of jaded, anti-heroic world weariness that populates so many novels of the post modern era, but has blessed little to do with what we might reasonably expect to be the real experience of losing a child. It is less about the feelings and thoughts of a parent who has lost a child than it is about the texture and tone of the narrator's own mind - all rather precious stuff as it turns out, and finally irrelevant to the circumstances of the novel.

A much better book (one that strangely enough got very little notice in the Canadian press, never mind the GG nomination it so richly deserved) was Bill Gaston's "Sointula". I highly recommend it. You won't be disappointed.

d
3.0 out of 5 stars Great first half but loses its way June 18 2009
By Richard Pittman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book starts out like a punch to the face. The narrator's son disappears after his father goes down the block for a couple of drinks once he thinks his boy is asleep. The father is tortured not just by his disappearance but by the fact that it was his fault.

As the ordeal stetches on, the narrator, Roman becomes numb though the pain of the loss dominates his thoughts and actions. At one point, later in the book, in a conversation with his wife, he says that he always thought a woman would be the great love of his life but in fact it was his 6 year old son.

This is a short read and I finished it in less than a day. As a parent of young boys, the first half of the book greatly affected me and I couldn't put it down.

The problem I have with the novel is that it doesn't really go anywhere in the second half. I lose some sympathy for the lead character and I get the sense the autor didn't know how to finish.

So, I do recommend it but with some reservations.
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