Monday, March 8, 2010

Book Review: Mathilda Savitch by Victor Lodato

Mathilda Savitch’s beautiful older sister Helene has been dead a year and she and her parents can’t get over it. Searching for some sort of closure, Mathilda breaks into Helene’s e-mail account and contacts one of Helene’s boyfriends, hoping he can provide answers to the mystery of Helene’s demise.

This novel is all about what grief can do to families. How it pulls them apart and shuts them down. Mathilda’s parents, especially her mother, can’t deal. They withdraw, and Mathilda resorts to acting out to get their attention – dropping plates, inviting boys over to spend the night in her basement, chopping off her hair.

Because the novel is from the limited viewpoint of a rather disturbed pre-teen, whether you enjoy the novel or not depends on how taken you are with the narrative voice. Mathilda has that particular self-absorption common to her girls her age (never explicitly mentioned, but likely 12) as well as a morbid curiosity and a tendency towards precocious observations that make her seem wise beyond her years.

Sometimes I feel bad for the house as much as anything. Standing there completely stuck and having to put up with all of us. Do you ever think of the lives of houses? I mean the walls and the doors themselves, not the people inside. (…) The thing is, I don’t want to end up like Ma and Da. In a house with books and dust and all the love gone out of it. (…) I want something else, but the words for it haven’t been invented yet. At this point it’s just a bunch of mumbling in my stomach.” (p 218-219, ARC, may vary from final published version)

There’s really not much in the way of plot, and although the visit to Helene’s boyfriend yields a revelation of sorts, you aren’t entirely sure you can trust it, because Mathilda can be quite the unreliable narrator.

It’s ok, but there are any number of better books about grief and any number of wacked out characters that are more fun to spend time with than Mathilda.

MATHILDA SAVITCH was released in paperback this week. Find out more about it at the author’s website.

14 comments:

Andi said...

Yeah, this one sounds like it might not have a whole lot to set it apart from other angsty teenish novels and novels dealing with "issues." Will pass for now, though it might pop off the library shelves at me at some point.

Andrea said...

Interesting. I wasn't sure what it was about, but it sounds like a little more than I want to read right now. Thanks for the review.

ninefly said...

hmm, I've heard this plot in a lot of books (perfect sibling dies and remaining one angsts through a novel)
the cover makes it look like a teen thriller or something lol
I'm not really into self-centered pre-teen voices, so I'll skip this one, thanks

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bermudaonion said...

That's too bad, because I simply adore that cover.

Rebecca :) said...

Thanks for the honest review. That is one of the reasons I come back to your blog- I know I will get the real deal.

Alea said...

The cover seems extremely misleading compared to your review. Strange.

Liviania said...

I may try this one just because I like unreliable narrators.

Staci said...

I truly love your reviews and when you rated this one as an o.k. I'm certainly thinking that I will pass on this one. Sounds interesting but I'm not sure if I like trying to figure so much out about the narrator.

Jenny said...

I've had this on my TBR list for a while, and it's never jumped out at me. From your review I'm thinking I might just give it a miss.

kay - Infinite Shelf said...

Great review. I saw this one often at the store and have been wondering about it. Sounds like something I might not hurry to read after all.

Nymeth said...

Hmm...I think the voice might work for me, so I'll keep it in mind.

Zibilee said...

It sounds like this might be a little too quirky for my taste. Also, I have to really really like a character to deal with that much precociousness, so I think I will skip this one. Sorry that it was a bit of a disappointing read for you.

Marie said...

Yeah. I liked this one okay but it had some things missing for me too.

Joanne ♦ The Book Zombie said...

Sorry to hear it wasn't better for you. It caught my eye, but now I think I will wait til the library gets a copy. Thanks for the review!