From the Publisher
In this compelling reimagining of the Orpheus myth, Leela, a young mathematician, encounters gifted Australian musician Mishka performing in the subway. The connection is immediate; a steamy love affair ensues. Insulated by their love, the pair ignores the anxious urban landscape. But when Leela is picked up off the street and taken to an interrogation center and an explosion rocks the subway, the fabric of their bond-and their very identities-begins to unravel. Reading group guide included.
Bewitched by the haunting violin she hears in the subway under Harvard Square, MIT mathematician Leela-May Magnolia Moore falls in love at first listen with mysterious musician Mishka Bartok. This ambitious but flawed romantic thriller is a post-9/11 reworking of the Orpheus myth by one of Australia's most acclaimed novelists. The nightmare begins with a series of terrorist bombings, overlapping with disappearances by Mishka. Leela starts tailing her lover, only to be snatched off the street and interrogated by members of a shadowy private security force. Their leader: none other than Cobb Slaughter, the former Special Forces op who has loved/loathed her since their blighted childhoods in the South Carolina hamlet of Promised Land. Is Cobb simply tormenting Leela for his own sadistic pleasure, or could the Australian-born Mishka really be a terrorist? Hospital (Due Preparations for the Plague) sends the anguished Leela across three continents searching for answers, but extended flashbacks and florid prose slow the pace. Despite the novel's timely, provocative premise, it unfortunately isn't only Orpheus who goes astray. (Oct.)
Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Barbara Hoffert - Library Journal
A graduate student in mathematics particularly interested in her subject's application to music, Leela Moore is mesmerized by the sound of a violin pouring forth from the subway stop at Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA. She and violinist Mishka Bartok immediately enter into a fervent relationship, but there's a catch: Mishka, raised in Australia by his odd little family of Holocaust survivors, keeps disappearing. It turns out that he is visiting a local mosque, though not to consort with terrorists, as Leela's old friend Cobb believes. Cobb's father is a pugnacious outcast in their little town of Promised Land, SC, and Leela's father a religious obsessive; as children they formed a bond, though Cobb's obsession for Leela long ago turned to anger. An ex-military man now working under contract in security, he's out to get her-after all, she's sleeping with the enemy. Meanwhile, Mishka, as adept at the oud as he is at the violin, is really only after the truth about the father he never knew-which leads him to torture in the Middle East. With a politically charged narrative intent on sorting out issues of identity and the clash between appearance and truth, this astonishingly rich novel by the author of Oysterwill entrance readers the way Mishka's music entranced Leela. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ6/1/07.]
Hospital (North of Nowhere, South of Loss, 2004, etc.) turns the mythical tables, sending a modern-day Eurydice to hellish secret interrogation facilities in search of her Orpheus, a musician suspected of terrorist ties. Leela, a graduate student at MIT, falls in love with Mishka, the grandson of Hungarian Holocaust survivors who grew up in remote rural Australia. He's in Boston studying music, but he has an odd habit of disappearing after each of the terrorist bombings that now regularly disrupt the city. (The unspecified time seems to be the very near future.) After an explosion on the Red Line, Leela is kidnapped and taken to an "interview room," where her chief interrogator is Cobb, a boy she grew up with in Promised Land, S.C. The tortured son of an abusive, alcoholic Vietnam vet, Cobb was as much of a misfit as Leela, the openly promiscuous daughter of a preacher. But he despised her liberal views and was insanely jealous of her lovers. In a truly creepy interrogation scene, Cobb tells Leela that Mishka's real name is Mikael Abukir and he's been seen visiting a Boston mosque with the man who blew himself up on the Red Line; Cobb also shows her photos that make it clear he's been following her every move. The stage seems set for a horrific tale of vengeance and destruction, especially as readers learn with Mishka that the father he never knew (a Lebanese student in Sydney who supposedly died after he got Mishka's mother pregnant) is now a notorious Muslim fundamentalist. Has gentle Mishka been lured into terrorism as a means of connecting with his father? To what gruesome ends will Cobb's rage take him? The answers turn out to be more optimistic than the grim opening chaptersindicate. The themes of redemption and reconciliation are not quite as electrifying as the author's scary portrait of an America deformed by fear and anger, but a novel that grapples so thoughtfully with such resonant issues demands close attention.
"Janette Turner Hospital is writing fiction that is literary in quality and formal design and in the ambition it displays but will also keep you on the edge of your chair or reading past your bedtime. . . . Turner Hospital has a beautiful lightness of touch through the nightmare contortions of the plot she spins and twists like a rope of destiny. . . . Orpheus Lost is one of those crossover books that . . . should enthral every kind of reader; a book full of intelligence and drama and compassion that is also a captivating page-turner-effortlessly sophisticated and proudly parochial at the same time."
-"The Age "(Melbourne)[an error occurred while processing this directive]
"Turner Hospital has become such a master of the drama of fiction [and] has managed to engage with the terrible matter of terrorism in a way that is not only serious but, in the narrative sense, engrossing. . . . The most striking thing about Turner Hospital is that she is writing literary fiction that has the readability and the page-turning suspense normally associated with popular or trash writing. . . . [She] is, like [Graham] Greene and [Joyce Carol] Oates, a serious artist who is also a master of popular form and its transfigurations."
-"Australian Literary Review
"Hospital shows her dazzling skill at thriller writing. [She is] a master-planner who never falters for an instant. Nor do the pace and intensity let up. . . . [A] consummate, nail-biting example of a myth retold for modern times." -"Australian Book Review"
"It must be a great challenge for an author to take a Greek myth and rewrite it in a modern context. It must be doubly satisfying, therefore, when the finished story is asgood as Janette Turner Hospital's latest book Orpheus Lost. . . . Spellbinding . . . shows considerable skill."
"-Bookseller and Publisher "(Australia)
"One of the most powerful and innovative writers in English today."
--("The Times Literary Supplement")
"Parts of this story are meditative, even elegiac, close-ups of the characters. But here and there the narrative pace quickens, and the second half, where the action leaps across continents, sometimes has the feel of a thriller." - "Winnipeg Free Press"
Praise for Janette Turner Hospital and "Due Preparations for the Plague":
"Move over Twain, DeLillo and Franzen. Janette Turner Hospital remakes the American social novel. Thrilling, maddening, deeply moral . . . a near flawless novel, and one so timely it is breathtaking."
--"The Globe and Mail"
"Hospital masterfully raises the big questions in a compelling . . . mesmerizing manner, drawing in the reader to a riveting degree."
--"San Diego Tribune
" "From the Hardcover edition."