Book Review: The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel

I have talked about Emily St. John Mandel three times on this blog.

I have reviewed Station Eleven.

I have reviewed Last Night in Montreal.

And I have reviewed The Singer’s Gun.

Now, with her new book set to release in 2019, I think it’s about time we finish the collection.

Don’t you?


Published by Picador

The Lola Quartet: Jack, Daniel, Sasha and Gavin, four talented musicians at the end of their high school careers. On the dream-like night of their last concert, Gavin’s girlfriend Anna disappears.

Ten years later Gavin sees a photograph of a little girl who looks uncannily like him and who shares Anna’s surname, and suddenly he finds himself catapulted back to a secretive past he didn’t realise he’d left behind.

But that photo has set off a cascade of dangerous consequences and, as one by one the members of the Lola Quartet are reunited, a terrifying story emerges: of innocent mistakes, of secrecy and of a life lived on the run.



The Lola Quartet was an interesting one for me. Like her other three books, the complexities of her characters are at the forefront of the novel. The intertwining lives of her characters never cease to grab you by the collar and force you to think.

And this one, with its greater leanings towards mystery and intrigue, had me on the edge of my seat for much of the story.

Once again, her description is sublime. And not only does she portray the blazing Florida heat, the encroaching swamps, and the summer evenings with beauty and realism, but she also uses point of view to her advantage in this regard.

After all, we move between the past – full of teenage romance, guilt, and grief – to the present day, with all of its mundane and deadly troubles. As such, the way the characters view their hometown shifts with not just time, but with the character’s experiences, creating an ever-changing environment.

It’s beautiful, and horrible. It’s full of wonder, and full of despair. It’s multiple things to multiple people, just how the best cities are.

Now, there is only one thing that sets apart The Lola Quartet from her other books for me. And that is the ending.

Without giving too much away, I honestly felt like the ending was a bit of an anti-climax. We are waiting for all of the narrative threads to come together in a grand conclusion. And, while all of the threads are neatly tied up by the end of the book, I felt that the final climactic moments of the book felt weak.

They aren’t bad. But, well, I was expecting a bit more of a shoot out – instead, the ending comes, goes, and everyone just returns to where they were before the story began.

Which, perhaps, is the whole point. That no matter how far you run, how hard you change yourself on the outside, there will always be a part of you that is inescapable. A memory that you can never replace; an action you can never erase. And even though the characters go on a journey, it’s hard to say whether any of them have learned a lesson.

Which is why, though this is my least favourite book in her collection, I still recommend it to anyone interested in her work. An intriguing plot, fantastic characters and an ending which, though a little limp, leaves you questioning:

Was it all worth it?

Have you read The Lola Quartet? Or any of the other books I have reviewed? Let me know below, or Tweet me @ERHollands.


One thought on “Book Review: The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel

  1. Honestly, that was how I felt about Station Eleven. I quite liked it, though not as much as lots of other people seemed to, but the ending felt kind of… meh. I’m really intrigued by Last Night in Montreal though, that one sounds like it’d be right up my street.


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