First Line: Mathilde’s father, James Spicer, had been the last person she’d known to use a shoehorn and a handkerchief, archaic tools gone the way of arrowheads and telegrams.
Review: The great strength of Christine Reilly’s debut novel is on luminous display right from the start:
Mathilde sparkled, her spectacular mouth making punctuation: a parenthesis, a befuddled backslash. When she drank water, her lips became ellipses. And how did Claudio’s mouth look to her, he conjectured, making all sorts of hideous shapes? Without a doubt like a the qualm of a question mark in discordance with the assured crudity of an exclamation point.
Claudio set the rules for himself: — her mouth reminds me when to stop. — A smile meant continue: they were on the same page. A frown meant the same: he had to justify himself, explain, maybe allow her to retort. A period, lips closed and ineffable, meant she was interested anymore.
Reilly’s love of language is palpable — she embraces words, challenges conventions, and creates authentic characters out of letters. And New York City is the perfect setting for this tale of searing pain and immeasurable beauty: solipsistic, gritty, relentless, yet captivating.
However, my greatest challenge with Sunday’s on the Phone to Monday is reflected in the very last line:
…life is finally beginning to leave us alone.
This was the perfect ending to a novel that was so beautifully written, yet whose characters I struggled to embrace and who truly seemed to want to be left alone by life — often figuratively, but sometimes literally.
However, based on Reilly’s writing alone, a recommendation is easy, especially for readers who revel in angst and embrace a “New York state of mind.”