Reviewed by: Pete Barber
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Approximate word count: 20-25,000 words
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“Cristian Mihai (born 25 December 1990) grew up in Constanta, Romania. And he’s still growing up, or at least trying to. Sometimes he writes. Sometimes he gets lucky and writes something good. He can’t, however, draw a straight line. No matter how much he tries. Not even with a ruler. And, please, don’t ever ask him to sing.”
Chris Sommers falls hopelessly in love with his cousin’s live-in girlfriend, Amber. The story follows Chris as he tries to fulfill his desire for her.
Chris, a blocked writer, practically moves into his cousin’s New York apartment, desperately snatching glimpses of his would-be muse, Amber. When his cousin discovers Amber has been sleeping with a painter whom he befriended, a scene erupts, and Amber subsequently runs away to Paris.
Chris travels to Paris and is crushed to find Amber living with the saxophonist from his father’s New York restaurant.
Beyond her beauty, Amber is shallow and careless of others feelings, causing pain and hardship through her actions. The writer does a fine job of maintaining the counterpoint of Chris’s myopic and naive view of her.
The author was clearly influenced by F. Scott Fitzgerald: Chris’s infatuation with Amber is all consuming. The scenes in Paris depict a bohemian group of friends orienting around a jazz cafe. The Gatsby is referenced a few times in the course of the story.
The writing is immersive, with fresh metaphors and well-defined, tactile scenes. Occasionally, my impatience got the better of me as I wanted more to happen, faster—but that isn’t the nature of the piece.
Like Jay Gatsby, Chris’s infatuation is an overriding constant. Amber’s character is revealed through her actions and their effects on others, but we never get to really know her, or her motivations.
A subplot is mentioned in passing: The painter was connected with a powerful New York money man, who swears a vendetta against Chris’s family and eventually forces Chris’s father’s restaurant into bankruptcy. Although this pointed up another cost of associating with Amber, it seemed something of an undeveloped afterthought.
Unlike Gatsby, there is no climactic scene. This ending was more reminiscent of a Sopranos fade to black.
I enjoyed this fast read but wouldn’t have complained if there had been more depth layered on the characters and some conflict within the plot.
Too few to mention.
Rating: **** Four stars