Martin Sloane Paperback – Oct 30 2001
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2001 Amazon.ca/Books in Canada First Novel Award Winner: When Toronto poet and playwright Michael Redhill published his first novel, Martin Sloane, he made headlines for the novel's long gestation through 12 complete drafts written over 10-plus years. In an age when many blockbuster novels read as though they never saw an editor's pencil, Redhill's stamina and his ruthless self-appraisal were enough to make him newsworthy. But all that attention to its composition raises the basic question about the book itself: was Martin Sloane worth all the effort?
As it turns out, Redhill's first novel is an intense, poetic evocation of the experience of time and place and the personality of a fictional Irish-Canadian collage artist, Martin Sloane, whose work, if not his life, resembles the nostalgic boxes built by the real-life sculptor Joseph Cornell. Told through the voice of his abandoned lover Jolene Iolas, who had a relationship with the older man in her youth, the story explores the connection between Sloane's life and his art. Iolas ends up following the cold trail of his life back to Dublin, where he lived as boy before he was exiled by illness and first began to pack up his life in little boxes: "Martin kept his eyes open only slightly and let the layers of time and memory swim down into the street. His whole life. His whole life had happened here, against these buildings, against these streets, and he was leaving it." Redhill has created a powerful meditation on life and memory, and his work as a poet stands him in good stead. Even if some of the characters are not quite fully realized and the narrative transitions at times a little rough, Martin Sloane proves that hard work pays off. Long live revision. --Robyn Gillam
From Publishers Weekly
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. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Top Customer Reviews
Maybe it had something to do wth the two previous novels I'd read, Mark Helprin's 'Winter's Tale' and Mark Spragg's 'The Fruit of Stone'. Although quite different sylistically, they're both tales. Well-crafted tales, weaving various threads into two distinct tapestries. I fear though, that Mr Redhill was not able to bring all the various elements of his story together into something cohesive. Considering the build-up, the ending -the 'punch-line' if you will- just wasn't satisfying for me. (But then, maybe he didn't see that as a priority.) Nor was it a 'literary' enough endeavour for it to be a novelistic version of an 'indie film', therefore allowing it extra points for style.
Also missing was a sense of energy that I expect from first novels, an audaciousness, verve, something to leave me wide-eyed, if only in the sense of chutzpah displayed, the ambitions manifest on the page. There were a few flashes...but not enough.
For me, in the end, it was neither 'this' nor 'that'. And certainly didn't live up to the hype.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Integrating all these themes into a deceptively simple story, Redhill emphasizes that for each of us, our past always shapes our understanding of the present. Martin Sloane, a fifty-ish artist who creates enigmatic boxes, and Jolene Iolas, a college student who falls in love with him and his artwork, speak to the reader unpretentiously about the past and present, and one quickly identifies with them, falling into the rhythm of their alternating voices. Martin's inexplicable disappearance from Jolene's apartment and Jolene's renewed search for him many years later provide a framework for the story, along with unlimited opportunities for the author to explore themes of love and loss, home and family, death and dying, childhood and memory, and, most of all, our personal identities as a result of our separate pasts. As the reader filters the separate and combined stories of Martin and Jolene through his/her own past experiences, s/he also distills from the author's themes whatever personal messages are relevant, pertinent, or even unique for him.
Redhill's background as a poet is obvious here. His ability to compress allows him to pack short scenes with big meanings, to ensure that every detail advances his story and themes, and to create fresh images which allow the reader to see common experiences in new ways. Wonderful, pithy observations keep the reader energized and involved on many levels, while an intriguing mystery maintains the suspense. Though a transition might help to avoid some minor confusion (eventually resolved) in a couple of scenes, and a few questions of character remain unresolved, this is an amazing debut novel, one of the year's most enjoyable for me. Mary Whipple
The story explores a number of important themes - the search for a home, the lifelong impact parents have on their children's lives, and above all, the nature of love. The question, " is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?" kept coming to my mind while reading this book. The reader will have to decide the answer as it pertains to this novel.
The book tells the story of the love relationship between Martin Sloane and Jolene Iolas, a woman thirty-five years his junior. We learn early on that Martin, one day, simply disappears without a word. The depth of the pain that Martin's unexplained and unexpected departure leaves Jolene with is at the centre of this novel. She is consumed for the next ten years of her life with the very human desire "just to know why."
Jolene searches for the reason for Martin's disappearance - ten years after his unexplained departure, she hears from an old friend, Molly, that Martin may be in Ireland. She travels over there, and although she doesn't find Martin, she finds herself - she gets her life back. The answers she discovers allow her to bring closure to the relationship and move on.
Redhill explores themes of lies and deception when he takes us back to Martin's childhood and his parents' marriage. That relationship, in itself, is very interesting. Redhill probes how differences in religion and background will eventually fracture a marriage with tragic consequences for children. He looks at how parents' withdrawal - both physical and emotional - have different impacts on different people. Jolene and Martin handle similar situations differently. Two lines succinctly illustrate this - Martin's "gotta go" and Jolene's "stay with me."
This is a wonderful book. In order to get full appreciation, I recommend that it be read at least twice. Read it first to find out what happens, and then again to appreciate Redhill's craft.
Martin Sloane is quite simply one of the finest novels I have ever read, crafted by a magnificent intelligence. Read it once for the story, then twice more page by page to pick up the textures and evocations and resonances. Then read it again - and again next year.
Martin is an artist with a deep and dark past with an erstwhile desire to come to grips with his past when he embarks upon a love affair with a young woman who might have been his soul-mate, had he allowed himself to accept the depth of her love and understanding. Unfortunately, the meddling and controlling influence of Molly, Joleen's best-friend dooms the relationship by grabbing at the fragile psyche of Martin through a jealous encounter with him when she attempts to expose to him his weaknesses and motivations during a visit to the couple's home after years of separation after college from Joleen. Molly, thereafter, embarks upon a vicarious desire to live through the lives of these two people by trying to re-establish a connection between them that spans from the US to Ireland all the while trying to mend her shattered friendship with Joleen. Joleen, glistens as the true survivor as all who read this book will find.
This is a novel worthy of reading for those who love good literature. Martin Sloane was a reading experience of exceptional magnitude that I did not beyond my wildest expectations hope to find between the covers of this marvelous novel when I purchased it.