Advance Reader Copy, 419 pages
February 9th 2014
House of Anansi Press
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Claire Audette is a dancer whose reputation in the vaudeville houses of 1920s Montreal is rapidly on the rise. Serafim Vieria is a photographer and lonely immigrant, wandering the streets of the same city haunted by memories of a lost love in his native Portugal. Around them, the Twenties are roaring, and the metropolis is simmering: corrupt politicians, the burgeoning of jazz, the emerging suffragette movement, trouble in the Red Light, fascism in the Italian community, with the English/French divide cleaving through it all. And as Serafim and Claire’s lives begin to intertwine, a dangerous plot forms that could boost both their fortunes. Can their naïve yet cunning plan succeed? Can they make their own luck? And, if they fail, what will become of their budding love? Serafim and Claire is the unforgettable story of two idealistic yet flawed dreamers being drawn together, and of the vibrant city and times in which they live. In lush and beautiful prose, Mark Lavorato brings an entire world vividly to life.
The best books in my opinion are the ones that can transport a person to a place and perhaps even a time period that is different from where they currently are. Having been to Montreal (though not in the 1920s of course), I found the idea of revisiting the city during one of my favourite decades irresistible. Serafim & Clare is what can be considered a pretty good “snow” read. The descriptions in the book really capture winter in Montreal well, and although things are different now some things remain the same.
For most of the story the two titular characters are showed as individuals on their own journeys, in fact they don’t really meet until more than halfway through the novel. By doing this the authour gives readers the opportunity to really get to know both Serafim and Clare on their own. We get to follow them from when they are young, hopeful dreamers to the people they end up as when they finally encounter each other.
I actually enjoyed the individual journeys of both Serafim and Clare more than their interactions together in the book. While there were some parts of their relationship that were endearing, I found Clare a bit too dominating and Serafim too passive when they were together. Throughout the book, I adored the relationship between Clare and her sister Cecile as well as the friendship between Serafim and Alvaro. I liked that each chapter started with a description of a photograph that tells the reader what year it is as well as a letter addressed to Clare or Serafim, usually from either Cecile or Alvaro. Both Clare and Serafim are characters with whom I can relate to. With Clare I can relate to many of her views on the world and people while with Serafim I can relate to the desire to photograph and capture “moments” rather than poses. Serafim & Clare is a great historical fiction read as we are given glimpses and mentions of historical events and figures but it doesn’t overwhelm either of the journeys of the main characters’ journeys. In the same vein while politics and religion do play a role in the story it is secondary to the art of dancing and photography which are essential parts of the protagonists. Serafim & Clare is not only historical fiction, it is a literary novel and a story about two characters trying to find their place in the world during a tumultuous time.
If you like this book, you’ll love: The Emperor of Paris by C.S. Richardson
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.