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Thoughts on “The Great Lenore” by JM Tohline

The Great Lenore by JM Tohline found its way to me via Atticus Books. It’s out this Wednesday, June 15!

About the Book:

Instead of the usual summary, I thought I’d share the first few lines of The Great Lenore from the ARC I read:

“When I met Lenore, she’d been dead for four days.

‘I’m so sorry,’ she said. She stood on the back patio with water dripping from her hair. She looked cold. ‘I feel awful for barging in like this, I hope I’m not being a bother. I couldn’t go next door, you know.’

‘I know,’ I said.

The Atlantic stretched out behind her like an angry black sheet. The rain chased itself into the water.

‘Oh, I’m sorry. Here.” She held out her hand. ‘I’m Lenore.’

‘Lenore. Right.'” (p. 1; want to read more? The first seven pages are online!)

A few paragraphs later, the story rewinds to the beginning. Our narrator, Richard, has come to Nantucket for the winter in the hopes of getting some writing done. Instead, he finds himself drawn into the drama unfolding in the house next door.

My Thoughts:

The Great Lenore by J.M. Tohline (cover)First, I just have to say, isn’t that cover gorgeous?

The Great Lenore is a book I very much enjoyed. It had the feel of The Great Gatsby: a narrator finds himself tangled up in the affairs of a world of which he never intended to be a part. There are secrets, there is love and a legendary woman. Some dreams are grasped while others slip away. Yet The Great Lenore is also very much its own book, never more than subtly evoking a whiff of Fitzgerald’s classic. More often than Gatsby, Lenore took my breath away, sneaked up behind me and coolly turned what I thought I knew about the story on its head.

I loved the way Tohline handled time in The Great Lenore. He seems to be a master of the non-linear, moving between present and a multitude of pasts with admirable ease. Whether jumping ten minutes or ten years, Tohline has a way of taking the reader with him. Pieces pop into place with precise timing, past and present dance together, and always the reader knows where she is and with whom. It was a pleasure to read this novel in part because I never had to struggle to find my place.

Another thing Tohline does beautifully is to bring the ocean into the tale. It is a constant presence, a character in its own right, always changing, always magnificent, and a constant reminder of the eternity before which human dramas play out. Hardly a scene goes by without a mention of that steadfast sea, yet the effect is far from tiresome. Rather, Tohline quite accurately captures the feeling of staying by the ocean: every time you’re near it, you notice its condition, its appearance, its mood. It becomes a part of your existence, just as it does for Tohline’s characters.

The Great Lenore is perfect when you want to get absorbed in a book. It doesn’t so much take you away as take you into itself. It will tell you a story while keeping you guessing and making you think. I would absolutely recommend it.

Those are my thoughts. Check out The Great Lenore by JM Tohline on GoodReads or LibraryThing, or read other bloggers’ reviews:

Did I miss your review? Please let me know!

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  • http://www.ragingbibliomania.net/ zibilee

    I have to admit that that little snippet you posted from the books opening does more than intrigue me. It sounds like this is a great book that I would love and need to check out. Thanks for this very perceptive and thoughtful review. On the list it goes!

    • Erin

      It’s very good. I hope you like it, too! (Isn’t that opening great??)

  • Pingback: The Great Lenore: An excerpt from JM Tohline's debut novel | Atticus Books: Where distinct voices become legend()

  • https://www.herebedragons.posterous.com Hannah

    This is a beautiful review. You’re a great writer!

    • Erin

      Aww, thank you :-)

  • http://wormhole.carnelianvalley.com Charlie

    That first line is one of the most compelling I’ve ever read. It makes it sound like it could be a comedy, although I can see why it probably isn’t.

    • Erin

      It’s irresistible, isn’t it? Definitely not a comedy, but very good.

  • http://stacybuckeye.wordpress.com/ stacybuckeye

    Those first lines sucked me in, for sure. I’ll have to look for this one.

    • Erin

      That’s what hooked me, too! Hope you enjoy it.

  • http://beloved-books.blogspot.com/ Peggy

    Sounds great! I’m with you on the cover, too.